Ascena Retail to Close All Dressbarn Stores

"The decision was difficult, but necessary, as the Dressbarn chain has not been operating at an acceptable level of profitability."
Matthew HellerMay 21, 2019
Ascena Retail to Close All Dressbarn Stores

Ascena Retail Group, which has been conducting a “comprehensive portfolio review,” announced it will shutter all of its Dressbarn casual wear stores due to their lack of profitability.

The closure of the roughly 650 Dressbarn stores follows Ascena’s announcement in March that it would sell its majority stake in the Maurices brand to a private equity company for about $210 million.

The decision to shutter Dressbarn “was difficult, but necessary, as the Dressbarn chain has not been operating at an acceptable level of profitability,” CFO Steven Taylor said Monday in a news release, repeating language that former chief executive David Jaffe used to describe the brand’s performance in a recent earnings call.

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Ascena, which also owns apparel chains Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, and Loft, has failed to make a profit since 2014 and has cumulatively lost over $1 billion in GAAP earnings since 2015. At the same time, debt has soared to more than $1 billion to finance acquisitions.

At the time it announced the Maurices sale, Ascena said it would evaluate selling more assets as part of a “comprehensive portfolio review.” It did not explain Monday why it had decided to wind down Dressbarn rather than sell the brand.

Dressbarn “has struggled to grow in apparel retailing as more women steer toward fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara, off-price chains such as TJ Maxx and Ross Stores, and even Target,” CNBC said.

According to The Motley Fool, “Ascena’s goal was to become the largest fashion chain dedicated to women across price points and segments of the market,” with Dressbarn being positioned as a discount store for casual wear.

But “the benefits of running a portfolio of retail brands have failed to materialize in profits,” The Motley Fool said, noting that the Ascena brands selling at lower price points, such as Dressbarn, are significantly underperforming the premium-priced brands such as Ann Taylor.

More than 7,000 retail store closures have been announced so far this year, already surpassing the total announced in all of 2018 that included all Toys R Us stores.