EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Dressbarn plans to close all of its stores after nearly 60 years in business, the company announced Monday.
The women’s clothing retailer announced the plan to shutter approximately 650 stores but did not provide a timeline for the closures.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise,” said Diane McCrohan, a retail and marketing professor at Johnson and Wales University.
“They really haven’t kept themselves updated,” she added. “They have not done anything with technology in their stores, and they offer the same thing that everyone else has.”
There are two Dressbarn locations in Rhode Island — one in the Lincoln Mall and another in the Warwick Commons shopping center — as well as 24 locations in Massachusetts, the company’s website shows.
Dressbarn has 6,800 employees, the company said.
“For more than 50 years, Dressbarn has served women’s fashion needs, and we thank all of our dedicated associates for their commitment to Dressbarn and our valued customers,” Steven Taylor, the company’s chief financial officer, said in a statement.
“This decision was difficult, but necessary, as the Dressbarn chain has not been operating at an acceptable level of profitability in today’s retail environment,” Taylor added.
Dressbarn said there are currently no changes to return, refund and gift card policies. The chain is a division of Ascena Retail Group Inc., a New Jersey-based company whose other stores include Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant.
McCrohan said the Dressbarn closure is just another sign of a “major shift” in the retail landscape.
U.S. retailers have announced about 7,000 store closures so far in 2019. That’s more than all of last year, accoording to Coresight Research.
“We’re doing a course correction,” McCrohan said. “In the ’90s, we expanded like crazy and we have too much retail square footage.”
The hits will likely keep coming: Coresight Research estimates there could be up to 12,000 store closures in the U.S. in 2019.
McCrohan said President Trump’s trade war with China will be a factor. “The tariff increases could have a decimating effect on retail,” she said. “Prices might increase 25%.”
At a rally in Pennsylvania Monday, the president defended his plan to increase tariffs on Chinese products as a long-term positive for the economy.
“We will soon be taking in over $100 billion in tariffs,” Trump said. “Very expensive for China. They’re not happy, but that’s ok. It’ll all work out.”
More than 170 shoe companies and retailers signed onto a letter Monday warning the president his proposed China tariffs would be “catastrophic.”