November 18, 2013, 1:28 PM

Edwin Watts Golf files for bankruptcy as it looks for a buyer

The e-retailer says it hopes to close on a sale by year’s end.

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After more than 40 years in business, Edwin Watts Golf Shops LLC is calling it quits, citing “extremely sluggish” consumer demand over the past five years. The multichannel retailer, No. 727 in the Internet Retailer Second 500, has filed for bankruptcy and says it expects to close by year’s end on a court-sanctioned sale of the company.

The retailer, which operates more than 90 retail stores and the e-commerce site EdwinWattsGolf.com, says it is talking with potential buyers. “The company and its advisors have been in advanced negotiations with multiple parties, prior to the bankruptcy filing, and expect to file sale agreement documents with the court shortly,” it says.

The retailer, based in Fort Walton Beach, FL—where it was founded in 1969 by Edwin Watts, at the time a golf course head pro and golf shop manager still in his 20s—announced its bankruptcy filing on Nov. 4, when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware in a move to sell off its operating assets.

John Watson, president and CEO, says a steady decline in golf industry sales over the past five years—capped by a “particularly challenging first half of 2013, due to poor spring weather, the impact of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast and a poor Florida golf season”—led the company to seek a buyer. The retailer says it expects that a “significant number” of its stores will continue to operate under new ownership, but that a final store count had yet to be determined. Its store chain spreads across 15 states, mostly in the southern United States.

It didn’t comment on the expected future course of its e-commerce site, EdwinWattsGolf.com, which the retailer upgraded earlier this year to better handle the complexities of selling golf products. The e-commerce site displays more than 1,000 products from more than 75 manufacturers.

Edwin Watts Golf also distributes six paper seasonal catalogs worldwide each year, with a total combined run of about 14 million copies.

The retailer is represented by law firm Klehr Harrison Harvey & Branzburg, and its financial advisors are FTI Consulting and Farlie Turner & Co. The bankruptcy filing is before Judge Mary F. Walrath in Wilmington, DE.

Edwin Watts Golf is also backed financially by private investment firm Sun Capital Partners.

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