When the pandemic eventually recedes and you feel comfortable shopping in malls again, there’s a good chance the retail landscape will look very different. For instance, there will be far fewer Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, and Loft stores to shop from. Ascena Retail Group, the umbrella company that owns these brands along with Catherine’s, Justice, and Lou & Grey, has just filed for bankruptcy.
These brands, which were once popular among women looking for affordable workwear for the office, survived the retail apocalypse in the wake of the Great Recession, only to be hit hard when the coronavirus pandemic landed. Ascena had a large fleet of brick-and-mortar stores across all of these brands, and these physical locations were forced to close for months during the lockdowns, significantly decreasing sales. As part of the terms of the bankruptcy, Ascena will permanently close a yet-to-be-determined number of stores in the United States, along with all Catherine’s stores and all stores in Canada, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the retail industry. At least nine well-known companies have declared bankruptcy, including J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney, Brooks Brothers, and Sur La Table. And even high-end designers have struggled to survive during this time. The New York Times reports that Diane von Furstenberg has failed to pay creditors, laid off more than 60% of corporate and retail staff in the United States, and plans to close all but one of its brick-and-mortar stores.
There are many ways the pandemic will change our world forever, but one obvious one may be that many beloved retail brands—some of which were already saddled with debt and not in the best financial health—may not survive the crisis at all.