Retailer Bon-Ton files for bankruptcy after announcing closures

Bon-Ton Stores, a 260-store retailer that includes the Boston Store, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Photo courtesy of Bon-Ton

Feb. 5 (UPI) — Bon-Ton Stores, a retailer with 260 U.S. locations, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection — four days after announcing plans to close 47 stores.

The department store chain, which includes Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, ElderBeerman, Herberger’s and Younker, announced Sunday it filed voluntary petitions for a court-supervised financial restructuring.

The company, headquartered in Milwaukee and York, Pa., said it has received a commitment from its existing lenders for up to $725 million, and is trying to secure funding from other investors and possible sale of company or assets.

“We are currently engaged in discussions with potential investors and our debtholders on a financial restructuring plan, and the actions we are taking and intended to give us additional time and financial flexibility to evaluate options for our business,” CEO Bill Tracy said in a statement.

Bon-Ton already closed four stores in January — one is near completion and 42 additional ones are scheduled to close.

“During this court-supervised process, we plan to continue operating in the normal course and executing on our key initiatives to drive improved performance,” Tracy said.

Bon-Ton operates in 23 states in the Northeast, Midwest and upper Great Plains. Its locations include nine furniture galleries and four clearance centers.

“The harsh reality is that while Bon-Ton’s management put in great effort to make the business sustainable, they were always running up a down escalator,” GlobalData Retail managing director Neil Saunders told CNBC.

Bon-Ton Stores opened in 1898 when Max Grumbacher and his father, Samuel, opened S. Grumbacher & Son in York, according to The store’s name was drawn from a British term connoting the “elite” or “high society.”

Bon-Ton has continued to grow and buy other companies, doubling in size in November 2005 with the $1.1 billion purchase of the 142 stores of Saks’ Northern Department Store Group. The newly acquired store group included Carson Pirie Scott (now branded as Carson’s), Bergner’s, Boston Store, Herberger’s and Younkers.

A Grumbach family member, former Bon-Ton chairman and CEO Tim Grumbacher, still owns 21 percent of the company’s common stock, according to court records as reported by USA Today.

In November, Bon-Ton reported a third-quarter net loss of $44.9 million on total sales of $545.3 million and a 6.6 percent decrease in comparable store sales from the year before.

At midday, the retailer’s stock price had declined 43 percent on Nasdaq to 8.5 cents.


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