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Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant's parent will close up to 667 stores

The parent of Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant and other women’s clothing stores said it plans to close up to 667 of its locations in the next two years as consumers’ shift to online shopping keeps battering traditional retailers.

The stores are part of Ascena Retail Group Inc., which also operates Loft, Maurices, Dressbarn, Catherines and the Justice kids fashion chain. The company had 4,850 stores overall as of April 29.

David Jaffe, Ascena’s president and chief executive, told analysts Thursday that the company has “identified more than 250 locations that will be closed permanently through July 2019” on top of the 71 stores it has already shut this year.

Jaffe said an additional “400 or so more stores will be closed” if Ascena is unable to obtain certain rent concessions from mall operators and other landlords. Ascena later updated the figures to show 268 definite closures and 399 stores that also could close, or 667 total.

Although the store closures affect all of Ascena’s brands, Jaffe and the company did not specify which store locations would close. In California, the company has 64 Lane Bryant stores, 48 Dressbarn stores, 38 Loft stores, 30 Justice stores, 20 Catherines stores, 17 Ann Taylor stores and 17 Maurices stores, according to the chains’ websites, for a total of 234.

Jaffe’s comments came as Ascena, based in Mahwah, N.J., posted sharply lower fiscal third-quarter financial results. Jaffe blamed the declines on “an extremely competitive market environment” that included “persistent” declines in store traffic and “intense promotional activity.”

“We expect these factors will remain major headwinds for the foreseeable future and reflect an accelerated shift to consumer demand toward e-commerce,” he said.

That shift has upended the retail industry, with conventional retailers such as Macy’s Inc., Sears Holding Corp. and J.C. Penney Co. also closing stores to slash costs.

Other chains have closed stores because they’ve entered bankruptcy proceedings, such as Payless ShoeSource Inc. Children’s clothing retailer Gymboree Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection Monday and said it plans to close “certain stores” out of its 1,281-store portfolio.

Ascena said its third-quarter profit, excluding a $1.3-billion, noncash charge to write down the value of certain assets, fell to $9.6 million, or 5 cents a share, from $30 million, or 15 cents a share, a year earlier.

Sales fell to $1.57 billion, down 6% from $1.67 billion. Ascena’s overall same-store sales — that is, sales at stores open at least a year — tumbled 8%, with every one of its brands showing a decline in same-store sales.

Ascena’s stock was up 15 cents, or 7%, to $2.36 a share in midday trading Monday.

james.peltz@latimes.com

Twitter: @PeltzLATimes


UPDATES:

12:30 p.m.: This article and its headline have an updated count for the stores being closed and that could be closed in the next two years, based on updated information provided by the company.

This article was originally published at 10:30 a.m.

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