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Sarah Halzack

Ann Taylor Parent's Bankruptcy Is the Scariest Yet

The retailer’s collapse has the potential to create more devastating ripple effects than were caused by other Covid-related washouts that preceded it.

Ann Taylor and its sister stores like Loft seem like they’re everywhere — because they are.

Ann Taylor and its sister stores like Loft seem like they’re everywhere — because they are.

Photographer: Jonathan Fickies/Bloomberg

In the latest example of how the world of brick-and-mortar retail is being overwhelmed by the pandemic, specialty apparel conglomerate Ascena Retail Group Inc. — corporate parent of Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant and other chains —  filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company said Thursday its restructuring plan will allow it to reduce its debt by $1 billion. It also will close an unspecified number of stores across all of its major banners, including shuttering all of its Catherines plus-size apparel locations.

Ascena may not have the cultural primacy of some of the other prominent names in the industry that have recently filed for bankruptcy. It doesn’t have the long, storied heritage of Brooks Brothers, the preppy clothier that opened its first shop more than 200 years ago. It didn’t define a fashion moment like J. Crew did a decade ago when Michelle Obama was sporting its embellished cardigans. It’s not a household name like J.C. Penney.