By  on July 3, 2007

Deb Shops Inc., the 75-year-old junior apparel chain, appears to be up for sale.

Reacting to industry speculation Thursday that the teen retailer had put itself on the block, chief financial officer Barry J. Susson replied: "I would never comment on any question like that."

Yet a sale at this time makes sense. The Philadelphia-based retailer is 66 percent owned by insiders, including several senior executives who have been with the store for years and are of retirement age. They could be looking to bow out with a windfall. Marvin Rounick, who is 67, joined Deb Shops in 1961 and has been president and chief executive officer since 1979. Allan Laufgraben, 68, is senior vice president of merchandising and has been employed by the company since December 1995. Susson is 44.

The 330-unit chain posted $327 million in sales last year. The stock on Thursday closed at $28.12, down 31 cents on Nasdaq, and has been trading on the high side of its 52-week range of $21.34 to $29.97.

Deb Shops was originally known as Joy Hosiery, a retailer of foundation garments. The company's stores operate under the names DEB, CSO and Tops 'N Bottoms. It survived the Nineties, when several specialty chains, including Edison Brothers and Merry-Go-Round, went bankrupt.

The company has a strong balance sheet, is known for its high-low pricing, and has recently boosted plus-size merchandise so that it's sold in about one-third of the stores.

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