Limited Stores LLC has notified the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services that it may lay off as many as all 248 employees, including its entire headquarters staff, and close down that Columbus, OH-area office as it struggles with plummeting sales, Columbus Business First reports.
The company’s letter to the state suggested that, while details weren’t final, “this mass layoff is expected to be permanent,” according to Columbus Business First. The company says it’s entertaining bids, but it may cease operations if a buyer can’t be found.
The retailer had hired Guggenheim Partners as financial adviser to explore a possible sale or restructuring, with rival retailers or private equity firms as potential suitors, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.
The New Albany-based retailer, which has 243 stores across the country, was formerly owned by L Brands (owner of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works), which sold a 75% stake in The Limited to private equity firm Sun Capital in 2007; Sun acquired the remaining stake three years later.
While Sun Capital touts The Limited as a place to buy “upscale” women’s clothing, the women’s apparel retailer is operating as a shadow of its former self, beset by falling traffic to malls and offering styles that can also be found at rivals like Loft and at department stores. The Limited’s appeal may be getting muddled further by its recent “Backroom” off-price effort.
As the struggling company tumbles, top executives are also stepping down. Ex-CEO Diane Ellis, who was at the helm for the last three years and was credited with driving transformation for the brand, left last month to become the president of the Chico's brand. In a statement in October, Ellis promised to bring innovation to mall-based apparel retailer Chico's, which has similarly been plagued by layoffs and financial troubles.
As online sales of apparel continue to rise, pressure on malls to revive or shutter is increasing, vexing specialty retailers like The Limited so dependent on them. The U.S. currently has about 1,100 enclosed malls, but Jan Rogers Kniffen, CEO of J. Rogers Kniffen Worldwide Enterprises, said earlier this year that number should be closer to 700.