Byline: Katherine Bowers

LOS ANGELES — Amid financial trouble in its retail operation, contemporary sportswear brand Bisou Bisou has shuttered six of its 20 stores and is holding aggressive sales at the others.
Friday, chairman and chief executive officer Marc Bohbot said the signature retail arm was already “fragile before Sept. 11” because of “poor retail locations. When Sept. 11 happened, it really put my retail operation in financial difficulty. I realized that I had to make a drastic decision.”
Stores affected are the Fashion Show Mall and Aladdin Desert Passage in Las Vegas, as well as units in Plano, Tex.; Glendale, Calif., and Wellington, Fla.
Remaining Bisou Bisou stores are currently offering steep discounts, ranging from 30 to 50 percent off all merchandise. Sales staff contacted at multiple locations said they were not given an end date for the sale. The Beverly Hills store is selling last year’s merchandise at $15 a piece, said a sales associate at that store.
Despite the hefty discounts — upped from 25 percent off all merchandise to 40 percent in the last week — Bohbot said rising industry talk that the firm might be liquidating or preparing for a Chapter 11 filing are not valid.
“I am negotiating with landlords, but I am not [at bankruptcy]. We have the cash flow to be able to face this,” he said.
Bisou Bisou’s retail entity is a separate corporation from the wholesale operation. A filing would allow the company to break costly leases.
Bohbot estimated he will lose $500,000 on his $15 million retail unit. He said he is still considering paring other units, and may shutter as many as four more locations in coming months.
He has already absorbed a $1.5 million loss from B. Clothing, the two-year-old junior sportswear line that Bohbot founded with Sam Levy, chief operating officer at apparel company Sun B. LLC.
Last month, B. Clothing shed 60 jobs, mainly in sales, design and merchandising, Bohbot said.
He attributed B. Clothing’s sharp decline to hundreds of thousands of dollars of cancellations in June. “The company could not survive these cancellations,” Bohbot said.
B. Clothing is looking for additional financing and will continue as a strictly private label operation, he added.
Despite troubles in juniors and retail, Bohbot said his $60 million wholesale business is strong and will have revenues flat with last year’s. At the Dallas Fashion Awards in October, a retail panel named the brand best contemporary resource, based on design quality and consumer appeal.
Bohbot said the wholesale business has benefited since his wife, Michele, returned eight months ago to oversee the design.
He has also been active with licenses, inking a deal with Santa Monica, Calif.-based Fusion Marketing LLC, a unit of Armada Group LLC for casual footwear with “a Puma vibe,” he said. The deal calls for footwear revenues to hit $30 million within three years. He is in negotiations with New York-based Betsch Group for a handbag license.
Additionally, lingerie, swimwear and outerwear have been brought back in house, he said, because of poor performance with the licenses.

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