A Bebe store front.


Bebe Stores Inc. is officially closing all physical units to become an online-only retailer.

Associates across the country — at stores and outlets — said final sales are beginning Saturday, meaning the stores will no longer accept returns on merchandise. The company has about 170 stores in operation.

According to some associates WWD reached out to, the company anticipates about “eight weeks” for all store closures to be completed, with May 27 as the final day of operation. One person said many doors are slated to go dark before then. And a few others said even though their location could remain open until mid- to late-May, that would depend on how fast inventory in the stores is cleared out.

One store associate said the company sent a letter noting that the closures were due to “financial reasons.”

Word surfaced in mid-March that the Brisbane, Calif.-based chain was considering closing all stores, but would keep its online business in operation. Subsequently, Bebe said it hired B. Riley & Co. as its financial adviser and that its board was exploring strategic alternatives. The women’s specialty chain also said “there is no assurance that this process will result in any specific transaction.” It also has hired a real estate adviser to assist with options related to its lease holdings.

Some summer looks from Bebe.

Two summer looks from Bebe.  Courtesy Photo

Bebe in February 2016 underwent a restructuring that saw its chief executive officer Jim Wiggett and chief financial officer Liyuan Woo leave the company. Bebe’s founder, Manny Mashouf, returned to the fold as ceo, and Walter Parks rejoined the retailer as president, chief operating officer and interim cfo.

And last year, in a further sign of financial pressure, Bebe leveraged its brand equity through a new business model via a venture with Bluestar Alliance that saw Bebe remain a public company operating the stores and its e-commerce site. Bebe contributed the brand’s intellectual property to the venture, and Bluestar contributed $35 million. The two firms own the venture, with half of the royalties going to the venture and distributed to Bebe on a quarterly basis.

With the store closures, Bebe the public entity would still exist, but this time operating just the company’s e-commerce site.

Bebe’s offers merchandise under the brand names Bebe and Bebe Sport.

 

The Bebe store at Garden State Plaza, in Paramus, N.J.

The Bebe store at Garden State Plaza, in Paramus, N.J.  George Chinsee

 

For more on Bebe:

Bebe Shares Drop 44.5% on Store Closing Rumblings

Bebe to Close Up to 25 Bebe and Outlet Stores

Bebe Enters Into JV With Bluestar Alliance for Its IP Assets

Bebe’s Still Sexy, But No Longer a Party Girl

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