After struggling for four years, Bebe Stores Inc. finally said on Friday that it planned to close all remaining stores by the end of May this year. The company has faced tough competition from both e-commerce and from other retailers in the fashion sector, such as Zara and Hennes & Mauritz (H&M). Bebe had a total of 180 remaining stores last year.

Bebe’s worldwide closures

The chain is joining a number of apparel retailers that have recently gone bankrupt, including American Apparel Inc. and Limited Stores Co. Although the company did not provide any information about its plans for the future, Bebe did say that it was planning to liquidate all merchandise and fixtures within the stores.

It lost a total of $13 million in the six month period ending on December 31, as sales continued to fall to $189.2 million, a 13.5 percent decrease from the same period the previous year. There are currently 134 stores in 31 States, Puerto Rico, and Canada, plus 34 outlet stores.

A rough transition ahead

Last month, Bloomberg reported on Bebe’s plan to shut down stores and focus on its web presence. The company was said to have been filing for bankruptcy, but the company did not have any significant debt. It did lose about $200 million over a four-year period and is now left with the difficult task of negotiating with the landlords to get out of leases. The company will be focusing on the potential online, international, and wholesale businesses.

Bebe Stores and lost jobs

This move will lead to the loss of 700 jobs in California, based on Bebe’s WARN notices of impending layoffs that it filed. Originally, the company was founded in 1976 by Manny Mashouf, an Iranian-born Arizona businessman. Initially, the retailer targeted the confident, sexy, modern women that are neither part of the junior team or the bridge—a price point just below the designer collection.

Bebe sold half of its brand to Bluestar Alliance LLC, a brand management company, for $35 million to move on to the wholesale licensing business. Of the buyout, Mashouf was quoted saying that the strategic decision was to “aggressively pursue a licensing strategy” so that the company could capitalize on the brand value internationally in all categories and channels.

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