Bebe to close all stores, go online

It’s time to say bye bye Bebe.

The struggling US apparel retailer says all of its 180 stores will be closed by the end of May, following four years of losses.

The company had already announced less than a month ago that it was exploring “strategic alternatives” for the business.

While no other details of its future plans were announced, it is believed to be maintaining an online presence. However all of its current store inventory will be sold within its stores prior to their closure.

Bebe specialised in figure-hugging dresses and evening wear and in sports apparel such as leggings and halter tops, and casualwear, including tight tops, shorts and skirts.

The brand has had a presence in Asia through franchised stores. According to its website it has four stores in Thailand, eight in India, nine in Indonesia and two in Malaysia. But that is uncertain, given that the website also lists two stores in Vietnam which closed at the latest last year, the last making way for the country’s first Zara store in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. In Hong Kong it used to have a store in Times Square, which has also since closed.

Increasingly jaded US retail market analysts are barely expressing surprise these days when apparel chains announce store culls or bankruptcies. Already in 2017 there have been more retailers enter Chapter 11 than in the entire year of 2016 as consumers move en masse from shopping in suburban malls, to buying online.

“We are witnessing a paradigm shift from bricks and mortar stores to online presences,” Anthony Michael Sabino, co-founder of law firm Sabino & Sabino PC told Bloomberg. “Not everyone will survive.”

Bebe says it will cost about $20 million to close its stores.

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