The newly bankrupt parent company of Ann Taylor, Loft and other apparel brands for women plans to shutter more than half of its 2,800 stores, including 20 in South Carolina. Three are in the Charleston area.
Citing heavy damage from the coronavirus pandemic, New Jersey-based Ascena Retail Group said in court filings it will shutter all 320 of its Catherines plus-size locations, along with 30 of Loft's 666 stores and outlets, 38 of Ann Taylor's 291 shops and more than 600 of its tween-brand Justice stores.
Eight of its smaller Lou & Grey brand shops also will be closed. Catherines is expected to operate as an online operation under new ownership, Ascena said in a statement Thursday.
The retail group also plans to close all of its stores in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
In South Carolina, the closings include 10 Justice stores, including one at Tanger Outlets in North Charleston; three Lane Bryant locations, including one at Wando Crossing Shopping Center in Mount Pleasant; and five Catherines shops, including one at Northwoods Marketplace Shopping Center on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston.
The Loft store at 267 King St. closed last weekend.
The company, which could announce more closures if it's unable to secure new leasing arrangements, also will close Ann Taylor Factory and Loft Outlet stores in Gaffney.
Ascena said the restructuring plan will reduce its debt by about $1 billion and help it become more profitable.
“The meaningful progress we have made driving sustainable growth, improving our operating margins and strengthening our financial foundation has been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic," said Carrie Teffner, Ascena's interim executive chairman.
"As a result, we took a strategic step forward ... to protect the future of the business for all of our stakeholders," Teffner said.
Ascena joins a growing list of retailers — mostly clothing chains — that have filed for protection in recent weeks, including Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney, J.Crew and Stage Stores.