Dressbarn

Dressbarn is closing all 650 of its stores, including one in Summerville. Provided/Dressbarn

The door is slamming shut on another retailer from a bygone era.

The owner of Dressbarn is closing the apparel chain's 650 remaining stores after it reportedly was unable to find a buyer for the nearly 60-year-old women's apparel business.

Eight locations in South Carolina will be shuttered, including one in Summerville's Azalea Square and three in Myrtle Beach. The others are in Florence, Gaffney, Greenville and Lexington. 

Closing dates will be determined later in the liquidation process. The retailer employs about 6,800 workers. 

"This decision was difficult, but necessary, as the Dressbarn chain has not been operating at an acceptable level of profitability in today’s retail environment," finance chief Steven Taylor said in a written statement

Parent company Ascena Retail Group Inc., which also owns Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Catherines and other clothing chains, said it's shutting down its original business in order to focus on its better-performing lines and return to profitability. The publicly traded company recently sold Maurices as part of the turnaround plan.

"Dressbarn’s wind-down is another significant step taken to advance Ascena’s ongoing transformation," the Mahwah, N.J.-based parent firm said in a statement. "This move is in line with the company’s commitment to comprehensively assess and optimize its portfolio by focusing resources on its most profitable brands to position the business for long-term growth and enhance shareholder value." 

Ascena's net loss for the first half of its fiscal year widened to about $66 million from $59 million for the same period 12 months earlier, according to the latest quarterly financial report. Sales were flat at about $3.3 billion.

Bloomberg News reported earlier this year that Ascena was exploring strategic options for its Dressbarn unit, which has struggled to keep pace against newer retail rivals ranging from Sweden's H&M to online juggernaut Amazon.

The longtime women's chain has closed about 90 stores since early 2018, according to financial filings.

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"Ascena really never invested in Dressbarn and let it stagnate to the point where it has become completely out of touch with the needs of modern shoppers," GlobalData Retail managing director Neil Saunders wrote in a research note. "Even the name now feels old-fashioned and dull."

Dressbarn was the brainchild of entrepreneur Roslyn Jaffe, who, according to the company's website, noticed that few retailers were providing affordable and stylish "wear-to-work dresses and clothing" to the growing numbers of women entering the U.S. labor force. She and her husband, Elliot, opened their first store in February 1962 in Stamford, Conn. 

After acquiring other chains, such as Tween Brands and Maurices, Ascena was established as the corporate holding company in 2011.

The Dressbarn name showed up in South Carolina in 1982 at a store at Waccamaw Outlet Park in Myrtle Beach.

The chain expanded down the coast to the Charleston region about two years later with a location near Northwoods Mall. At least two other local Dressbarn shops came and went at Citadel Mall and Tanger Outlets in North Charleston.

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott