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Sarah Halzack

For Clothing Retailers, Breaking Up Is Now Harder to Do

Anxiety about the trade war and uncertainty about real estate pose greater challenges for smaller chains.

Headed for a retail breakup.

Headed for a retail breakup.

Two big names in clothing retail are getting smaller. Gap Inc. laid out the details last week of its previously announced plan to split into two companies — one that is solely its Old Navy chain, and another for everything else. Meanwhile, J. Crew Group Inc. made it official last week that it plans to spin off its Madewell chain.

Both of these splits are the right moves for two apparel businesses that have oddly similar problems: Their newer chains are doing well, but their older ones are struggling. The breakups will allow executives to focus more intently on the troubled brands’ problems.