Bon-Ton said to prepare for bankruptcy

It's rescue plan collapsed, reports say

Younkers at Westdale as seen from the entrance off Wiley Blvd. SW in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. Bon-Ton Stores announced on Wednesday that they would be closing the store in southwest Cedar Rapids. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Younkers at Westdale as seen from the entrance off Wiley Blvd. SW in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. Bon-Ton Stores announced on Wednesday that they would be closing the store in southwest Cedar Rapids. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Bon-Ton Stores Inc. is planning to file for bankruptcy protection as soon as this weekend after failing to find a last-minute buyer, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Bon-Ton said in a filing on Wednesday that it will shutter 47 locations across 17 states this year. Its stores carry names including Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers.

Those closings include Younkers at the Westdale shopping mall in Cedar Rapids and in Cedar Falls — the only two Younkers in Iowa.

The department store chain has been struggling with $1.2 billion of borrowings, slumping sales and skittish vendors who scaled back shipments amid last year’s crucial holiday shopping season.

After talks with creditors over a potential restructuring plan, the company said in a filing on Monday that negotiations had broken off.

Representatives for Bon-Ton and PJT Partners Inc., the company’s financial adviser, declined to comment.

Bon-Ton had been discussing a restructuring deal that would have put the company into bankruptcy with the blessing of its creditors, some of whom would get new notes and equity in exchange for their debt, the company said this week in the filing.

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One plan hinged on the company finding a buyer who would possibly invest between $45 million and $60 million in exchange for a controlling stake of the reorganized retailer.

The York, Penn.-based chain, which operates about 260 stores in two dozen states, has been struggling with declining mall traffic as shoppers turn to the internet. Some vendors tightened their demands last year before agreeing to provide more inventory to the company, and creditors have been pushing for a bankruptcy to recover part of their investment.

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