Dressbarn Closing All 650 Stores

It’s time to close the barn doors.

The parent company for the fashion retailer Dressbarn said this week that it would close all of its approximately 650 stores.

Gary Muto, the chief executive of Ascena Retail Group Inc., which also owns Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor and Loft, wrote a letter to customers about the news and thanked them for 57 years of loyalty.

“It has been our pleasure to serve you, making it all the more difficult to let you know that the decision has been made to begin winding down the Dressbarn business,” Mr. Muto said. “This means that we will eventually be closing all of our stores.”

Although Mr. Muto did not share a specific timeline for the closings, he said there would be no changes to the current return, refund, or gift card policies or loyalty reward programs. He did invite customers to stock up before doors close, though.

Mr. Muto did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

In a statement Monday, Steven Taylor, the chief financial officer of Dressbarn, alluded to poor performance.

“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,” Mr. Taylor said. “During the wind down process, we will continue to provide our customers with the same great experience both in-store and online, offering them even better deals and value. We will work to assist our associates through the transition and maintain existing relationships with our vendors, suppliers, and other key stakeholders through this process.”

The statement said Dressbarn’s 6,800 associates would receive information about specific store closings and would be offered transition support.

A recent credit analysis provided by Moody’s Investors Services, a company that tracks both credit ratings and debt for companies, said that Dressbarn’s parent company, Ascena, earned $6.6 billion in revenue ending November 2018. However, the report projects a “significant” earnings decline in 2019.

“The exit of Dressbarn will be positive in the long term, as it leaves a stronger and more profitable core business,” said Raya Sokolyanska, a Moody’s vice president. “However, the wind-down could cause some disruption in the company’s overall operations and require meaningful one-time charges, using up some of the company’s available cash that would otherwise be available for debt repayment.”

Neil Saunders, the managing director for GlobalData Retail, said Dressbarn had been in decline for some time, losing customers to competitors like TJ Maxx, Target and even Walmart. “It doesn’t come as a particular surprise,” Mr. Saunders said, adding the brand didn’t “evolve” with its customers.

He predicted it would take Ascena six to 12 months to fully close all of its stores after making consultations with landlords and selling off inventory.

Some on social media shared their dismay over the news.

“Make all the har har barn jokes you want,” one person said on Twitter. Dressbarn “still sold well-made stuff at a reasonable price. The dresses I got there are LINED. And naturally, its cut worked great for my shape, so of course they’re going away.”

Others shared nostalgia.

“Wow… brings back memories of my mom dragging me there as a kid so she could shop,” another person said on Twitter. “Then when I started working, it was my go to place for career gear, and I was the one dragging her there.”

Retail chains have suffered a difficult couple of years. According to data from Coresight Research, American retailers have announced plans to close 5,994 stores this year so far. That’s 140 more than were announced in all of 2018, but short of the more than 8,000 announced in 2017.

In 1962, Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe started Dressbarn to help women in the workplace find designer clothing at a discount.

The name was born from the initial item they were selling, dresses, and in the ’60s the term “barn” noted value or discount.

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