It looks like the brides have run for the last time. Filene’s Basement, the century-old discount retailer based in the Northeast and famous for its chaotic “Running of the Brides” sale, in which women rummage through aisles of drastically marked-down wedding gowns, has filed for bankruptcy and will close all of its stores by early 2012.
This will be the third time Filene’s Basement is filing for bankruptcy over the course of a little more than a decade. This time, bankruptcy will end in liquidation—and likely with the chain doing what it’s best known for, offering dramatically discounted clothing and other merchandise. Unlike its other sales, the promotions expected to continue through the heart of the holiday shopping season will be of the going-out-of-business variety.
An exact schedule for store shutdowns has yet to be announced by the Syms Corp., which owns Filene’s Basement and is also filing for bankruptcy. There are currently 46 “off-price” apparel stores operating under the Syms and Filene’s Basement names in the U.S., mainly in the East Coast. The company announced:
The liquidation of stores is expected to run through approximately January 2012. Syms and Filene’s Basement are seeking court approval to retain an agent to handle the liquidation of merchandise and for authorization to conduct going out of business sales.
The Boston Globe notes that Filene’s Basement was once seen as an innovator in the field of discount retailing:
The basement pioneered the concept of bargains when it devised a system of automatic markdowns, where merchandise is discounted on a set schedule that customers can track. When Syms purchased Filene’s Basement at an auction, it promised to restore the historic clothing chain’s luster.
Instead, Filene’s Basement’s old retail strategies couldn’t hack it in the current ultra-competitive marketplace, especially during the recent economic downturn. Here’s how Syms CEO Marcy Syms explained the company’s failings in a press release:
We have been faced with increased competition from large department stores that now offer the same brands as our stores at similar discounts; a proliferation of private label discount chains; a decline in buying opportunities as brand name labels have reduced overruns by improving their supply chain management – all combined with the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes.
(GALLERY: 12 Things We Buy in a Bad Economy)
Out with the running of the brides, in with the going-out-of-business bargain hunters.