Stage Stores files for bankruptcy as pandemic chokes sales

(Reuters) - Stage Stores Inc filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late on Sunday, the latest casualty of the coronavirus pandemic following the collapse of luxury store chain Neiman Marcus and apparel retailer J. Crew Group Inc.

The discount department store operator will seek bids for the business or any of its assets, while it also begins to wind down its operations, Stage Stores said in a statement.

The company listed both assets and liabilities between $500 million and $1 billion, according to a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas.

“The increasingly challenging market environment was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which required us to temporarily close all of our stores and furlough the vast majority of our associates,” Chief Executive Officer Michael Glazer said in a statement.

“Given the conditions, we have been unable to obtain necessary financing and have no choice but to take these actions.”

Houston, Texas-based Stage Stores was seeking to avoid bankruptcy by asking vendors for more time to pay bills and other concessions, Reuters reported last month.

The company shut all its 738 stores and three distribution centers in March, along with other “non-essential” retailers, as part of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus throughout the United States.

Stage Stores said it now expects to reopen about 557 stores on May 15, about 67 stores in the second phase by May 28 and the rest by next month.

The company also said Chief Financial Officer Jason Curtis is leaving the company, effective May 22, to pursue a career with another retailer and that CEO Glazer would oversee the finance function.

Kirkland & Ellis LLP acted as legal adviser to Stage Stores and PJ Solomon was its investment banker. Berkeley Research Group LLC served as restructuring adviser.

Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Anil D’Silva