U.S. sporting goods retailer Modell's files for bankruptcy protection

FILE PHOTO: A man waits to check out from shopping at a Modell's Sporting Goods store in New York, U.S., May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

(Reuters) - Sporting goods retailer Modell’s Sporting Goods filed for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. bankruptcy court in New Jersey on Wednesday, citing a challenging retail environment.

The company, which has liquidated 19 stores in partnership with financial services firm Tiger Capital Group, said it will start closure sales at its remaining stores beginning Friday.

Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers in the United States have been under immense pressure, as consumers increasingly prefer to shop from online giants such as Inc AMZN.O and Walmart Inc WMT.N.

The privately owned Modell’s, which calls itself the oldest U.S. family owned and operated sporting goods retailer, said it will also continue to explore recapitalization through a potential sale of some or all its assets.

Chief Executive Officer Mitchell Modell has in recent interviews said a warmer-than-normal winter hurt sales of cold-weather merchandise, while the New York Yankees’ failure to make the baseball World Series and the New York Jets and Giants football teams’ losing records hurt jersey sales.

Several sporting goods retailers have gone out of business over the last five years, including City Sports, Sports Authority, Sports Chalet and MC Sports.

Modell’s, which was founded in 1889 by Morris Modell as a single store on Cortlandt Street in lower Manhattan, operated over 140 stores across several northeastern and mid-Atlantic U.S. states.

Some stores, including in Manhattan, had already been undergoing closing sales.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur