POINT OF REFERENCE: The precarious state of the junior business has one chain fighting to stay relevant. Since filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, Los Angeles-based Reference Clothing Inc. has been forced by the court to close two of its 23 stores primarily located on the West Coast. One store at the Boulevard Mall in Las Vegas and another at the Del Amo Fashion Plaza in Torrance, Calif., shuttered in February. According to court papers, the chain filed the “emergency” petition to avoid closing a third location at Northridge (Calif.) Mall. Stores at Paseo Colorado in Pasadena, Calif., and at The Grove in Los Angeles remain open. Company owner and president, Young On, could not be reached for comment. Ian S. Landsberg, On’s attorney, also did not return phone calls. According to court documents, a partial list of the largest claims against Reference totals $3.5 million while the company’s assets are estimated to be in the $1 million to $10 million range. Reference, like Los Angeles-based Forever 21 and Sweden’s Hennes & Mauritz, is a cheap-chic emporium, with trendy, disposable fashion at prices ranging from $22 to $100.

This story first appeared in the March 14, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

COLUMBIA’S MOUNTAIN MOVE: Columbia Sportswear Co. said Thursday it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Mountain Hardwear Inc. for approximately $36 million, including approximately $30 million in cash and assumption of $6 million in debt. The Portland, Ore.-based outdoor apparel company said the merger is subject to approval by the shareholders of Mountain Hardwear and is expected to close on March 31. Richmond, Calif.-based Mountain Hardwear designs, develops and markets technically advanced equipment and apparel for outdoor enthusiasts. A Columbia spokeswoman said apparel accounted for $24 million of Mountain’s $31.4 million in sales last year. Mountain Hardwear will continue to be based in Richmond and will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary. No layoffs are planned and company founders Jack Gilbert, Paul Kramer and Mark Wallenfels will continue to lead the senior management team. The Columbia logo won’t be featured on the Mountain Hardwear product.

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