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Charlotte Russe will liquidate and close all of its stores

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Charlotte Russe will close all of its stores over the next two months. The women's clothing company joins a growing group of retailers that couldn't survive...

Posted: Mar 7, 2019 11:07 AM

Charlotte Russe will close all of its stores over the next two months. The women's clothing company joins a growing group of retailers that couldn't survive bankruptcy.

The company didn't want to shut down. It filed for bankruptcy protection a month ago and announced plans to close only 94 of its 512 stores nationwide. The goal was to use the bankruptcy process to shed debts and sell to a buyer who would keep it in business.

But those hopes fell apart this week when liquidator SB360 Capital Partners won the auction in bankruptcy court for Charlotte Russe's $160 million worth of inventory, and other assets. The plan to shut down was approved Wednesday by the bankruptcy court in Delaware.

SB360, which describes itself as "one of the oldest, most experienced companies in the country conducting store closing and going out of business sales," announced Charlotte Russe would start going out of business sales at all stores as of Thursday. The company will accept gift cards through March 21, and it will close all of its stores by of the end of April.

Charlotte Russe had 8,700 employees at the time of the filing, all but 1,400 of whom were part-time workers. It had stores in every US state except Alaska at the time of its bankruptcy filing. It also owned 10 children's clothing stores under the Peek brand, which it acquired in 2016.

The bankruptcy court also approved a total of $559,000 in bonuses for key company executives to keep them in place during the shutdown process. Most of the company's employees won't be as fortunate, because severance payments are rarely paid in US bankruptcy cases.

Charlotte Russe started in San Diego in 1975. It was acquired in 2009 by private equity firm Advent International for $380 million. The company is one of a long line of brick-and-mortar retailers that have struggled and died after being acquired by private equity firms.

The deal left it with $175 million of debt that was due in 2014. That loan principal grew by $80 million in the subsequent years. The company planned to have an initial public offering that year to pay off much of that loan. But a downturn in sales postponed the IPO plans indefinitely.

Retailers often file for bankruptcy with the intention of staying in business, only to end up closing all of their stores during the bankruptcy process. That's what happened with US operations of Toys "R" Us a year ago.

Even when retailers are able to emerge from the bankruptcy process, they often struggle and end up shutting down in relatively short order following a second bankruptcy filing. Payless ShoeSource and clothing retailer Gymboree both have followed that path to recent months.

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