Coronavirus News: As more stores file for bankruptcy, 7 On Your Side looks at the future of retail

NEW YORK (WABC) -- At least three major retailers have filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this month as the COVID-19 crisis has crippled sales.

Experts worry there could be more stores that follow, so it is a good time to spend any unused gift cards.

"The pandemic has been a disaster for retail," crisis management expert Ronn Torossian said.

Torossian says coronavirus will likely kill more stores for good.

Neiman Marcus, J Crew, JC Penny -- some of the nation's largest department stores -- all filed for bankruptcy protection in May but hope to bounce back and continue.

But Pier 1, which is drowning in losses, will liquidate and permanently shut down all of its stores.

The pandemic has eliminated all revenue for a sector that was already in trouble and has pushed consumers to be more dependent on internet behemoths.

While Amazon and E-commerce are thriving, small independently owned shops wonder if retail will recover.

"How do you sell things to clients who can't go out? It's a Catch 22 for retailers," said small boutique owner Gina Curko.

7 On Your Side recently helped her store, See Saw, from sliding off the edge due to a delay with her payroll protection loan. The federal program is a lifeline for many businesses to see them through the crisis, but may not be enough.

Retail was in a difficult place before the crisis with malls struggling to survive. Now resources will need to be dedicated to crowd control and figuring out a new shopping experience.

"Post-pandemic, do I want to deal with touching clothes someone else touched the day before me, the hour before me?" Torossian said.

But Torossian says services like Uber prospered following the 2008 recession and he predicts new apps, ideas and industry to serve a post-COVID-19 world.

"I think it's really a sad time, but I hope and think that from everything bad, good things come, and hopefully while we see the destruction of certain businesses, we'll see other businesses arise," Torossian said.

Let's hope for recovery, but it's a good time to get rid of any gift cards you may be holding onto while they still have value.

You can redeem cards at stores which are in bankruptcy protection for now, but don't delay. Or you can sell or swap a gift card online.

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