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The Long, Agonizing Fall of PacSun

A slo-mo wipeout ends in bankruptcy court for the 36-year-old surf retailer.
A Pacific Sunwear store in Santa Monica, Calif., in May of last year.

A Pacific Sunwear store in Santa Monica, Calif., in May of last year.

Photographer: Araya Diaz/Getty Images

How did it come to this? 

Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors on Thursday, hoping a restructuring could help turn around the 36-year-old surf retailer's fortunes. Once a staple merchant of California cool, PacSun wasn't able to adapt as fashion trends left surfwear behind and overexpansion sapped its resources. It amassed crippling debt as it recorded losses each year since 2008. Every effort at reinvention failed. Executives couldn't figure out how to stop the bleeding. The company's shares are down 96 percent over the past 12 months.