One day, you get a notice in the mail that an important customer has filed chapter 11. Your customer recently paid $250,000 on invoices that were delinquent for several months and still owes you $500,000. The customer, a brick-and-mortar store, sent form letters to its vendors expressing optimism that the chapter 11 process will allow the store to continue to operate while it locates a buyer which will continue to operate the store.

A few weeks later, no buyer has been located and the customer seems headed into a liquidation. Your inventory will probably be dumped on the market at bargain prices — potentially depressing the price of your product.  You may not see any of the proceeds of the liquidation, which will most likely go to pay the customer’s bank lenders. Lastly, you are losing a significant customer.

Not only are you looking at potentially writing off $500,000 in uncollectable accounts receivable, but, after speaking to bankruptcy counsel, you discovered that you may have to repay the $250,000 you recently were paid.

Given the size of your business, this outcome is serious, if not catastrophic.

If you are facing or have ever faced this scenario, you are not alone. This is an increasingly common situation, particularly in the current, challenging retail environment.

How can this situation be avoided or mitigated? Here are 5 tips.

1. Recognize the warning signs

  • When a customer files bankruptcy, vendors who are owed money will often say there were warning signs for months