By Arathy S Nair and Tom Hals
(Reuters) - U.S. women's apparel chain The Limited filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday after closing all 250 stores, the latest brick-and-mortar retailer to fall victim to changing tastes and online competitors.
The retailer that began as a single store more than 50 years ago blamed declining mall traffic, falling sales, expensive leases and the shift toward online shopping.
Retailers filing for bankruptcy in the past year include Aeropostale Inc <AROPQ.PK>, Pacific Sunwear of California Inc <PSUN.MU>, Sports Authority, Vestis Retail Group and American Apparel.
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In addition, department store chains such as Sears Holdings Corp <SHLD.O> and Macy's Inc <M.N> are planning on closing scores of locations this year.
At the same time, internet retailer Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O> said this month it plans to add 100,000 jobs, expanding its workforce by more than 50 percent, to speed deliveries.
While The Limited's stores are closing, its name may live on.
An affiliate of private equity firm Sycamore Partners agreed to provide a $25.75 million "stalking horse" bid for the company's intellectual property, which includes its trademarks, website address and social media accounts.The stalking horse sets a minimum bid for an asset in an auction, which The Limited hopes to hold within 30 days.
Sycamore acquired the intellectual property of Coldwater Creek after the women's apparel chain filed for bankruptcy. While the chain's stores closed in 2014, Coldwater Creek continues to sell through its website.
The Limited grew from a single store in Upper Arlington, Ohio, in 1963 and went public in 1969 as The Limited Inc, and later L Brands. The chain grew to 750 stores at its peak.
Beginning in the 1980s, L Brands launched or acquired Limited Express, Victoria's Secret, Lane Bryant, Lerner New York, Henri Bendel, Limited Too, Abercrombie & Fitch, Express Men and Cacique.
In 2007, Sun Capital Partners Inc, a private equity firm, acquired a majority stake in Limited Stores and bought the rest in 2010.
Despite closing The Limited stores, Sun Capital told its investors that it had earned nearly double its initial $50 million investment in the retailer.
The asset sales are subject to approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, where the Limited Stores LLC, the chain's parent, filed for Chapter 11.
Klehr Harrison Harvey Branzburg LLP is The Limited's legal adviser, while RAS Management Advisors LLC is its restructuring adviser. Guggenheim Securities LLC is the investment banker for the restructuring.
(Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Del.; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Matthew Lewis)