The pressure is on for Bebe Stores Inc., which reportedly will close all stores and operate with just an online presence.
Shares of Bebe dropped 44.5 percent to close at $3.57. Company executives could not be reached for comment.
There were rumblings in the marketplace when the women’s specialty chain posted second-quarter results on Feb. 1 that the chain was pressured, and was moving closer to a bankruptcy filing. The company at the time said it would close up to 25 stores and outlets this year. For the three months ended Dec. 31, the company improved its net loss to $5.2 million from a net loss of $5.5 million a year ago, but saw net sales drop 16.8 percent to $101.9 million and comparable-store sales decline 10.5 percent.
A further sign of financial pressure was the leveraging of its brand equity through a new business model by entering into a joint venture last year with Bluestar Alliance LLC, allowing Bebe to remain a public company operating the stores and e-commerce site. Bebe contributed the brand’s intellectual property to the venture and Bluestar contributed $35 million. The venture is jointly owned by the two firms. Half of the royalties go to the joint venture and are distributed to Bebe on a quarterly basis.
Bloomberg first reported on the store closure plan, noting it was a step to avoid a bankruptcy filing.
Should Bebe file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court petition, it would be the latest in what has been a long line of retail bankruptcies. Those have included The Limited, American Apparel, BCBG Max Azria and Gordmans Stores.