Wet Seal holiday campaign


Teen retailer Wet Seal LLC said it expects to lay off 148 workers in Irvine, Calif., where it’s headquartered, by March 21.

That’s according to a filing with the California Employment Development Department this month, making it the latest in a string of retailers reducing their workforces and store counts in the face of a challenged business environment.

A spokeswoman and Wet Seal chief executive officer Melanie Cox, who succeeded Ed Thomas at the helm of the company in August 2015, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Wet Seal filed for Chapter 11 protection in January 2015 and was sold out of bankruptcy to an affiliate of Versa Capital Management LLC in the spring. It was taken private and trimmed its store fleet by 338 doors with 173 stores remaining.

Cox sought to add stability to the business, which had seen a grab bag of strategies rolled out under four ceo’s who hoped to turn around the business in more recent years. Cox focused on store redesigns and its roots in Southern California. She told WWD in the spring that the business could be taken public again in three to five years. “There’s lot of different ways this could go,” she told WWD at the time.

Wet Seal dipped a toe back into some of the markets it had exited in bankruptcy with 13 pop-up shops that bowed Nov. 3 and are slated to close at the end of this month.

The company more recently had been the target of rumors that it was either considering a sale or Chapter 11. It wouldn’t be the first retailer in more recent times to seek bankruptcy protection twice in an abbreviated span of time. American Apparel LLC filed for its second round of bankruptcy last year as part of a sale to Gildan Activewear Inc.

The layoff news follows a dismal January for retailers, which saw The Limited file for Chapter 11, BCBG Max Azria Group LLC confirm a reduced focus on brick-and-mortar, American Apparel lay off about 2,400 workers as it winds down and transitions to new ownership, more store closures for Sears Holdings Corp. and a consolidation at Macy’s Inc. that will see 10,000 jobs cut and 63 stores shuttered by the spring.

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