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Another Bankruptcy At The Mall: Parent Company Of Ann Taylor, Loft Is Latest To Fail

An Ann Taylor store in New York City in 2015. Ascena Retail Group, which owns Ann Taylor, Loft and Lane Bryant, has filed for bankruptcy.
Andrew Burton
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An Ann Taylor store in New York City in 2015. Ascena Retail Group, which owns Ann Taylor, Loft and Lane Bryant, has filed for bankruptcy.

The parent company of Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant and other clothing brands is joining the parade of apparel retailers to file for bankruptcy during the coronavirus crisis.

The firm Ascena Retail Group — whose stores are a major tenant of malls and shopping centers — did not specify how many locations it will close.

It's a familiar story of a prominent retailer — once a top choice for many working women — rooting itself in physical stores, falling behind on fashion trends, taking on too much debt and finding itself unable to cope with the unexpected collapse in demand for clothes during this year's pandemic shutdowns.

But Ascena also has a vast network of 2,800 stores across the U.S. and Canada, a scale that sets it apart from a series of previously announced bankruptcies by smaller retailers J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney, Brooks Brothers and New York & Co.

The conglomerate said it plans to close "a significant number" of locations for the young girls' brand Justice and "a select number" of Ann Taylor, Loft, Lane Bryant and Lou & Grey stores. It will close all Catherines stores and all locations of all brands in Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico.

Last year, Ascena wound downits Dressbarn chain, closing some 650 stores, and soldits value brand Maurices.

"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," Carrie Teffner, Ascena's interim executive chair, said in a statement. "As a result, we took a strategic step forward today to protect the future of the business for all of our stakeholders."

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Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.
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