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Christopher & Banks considers selling or bankruptcy as sales struggle

The Plymouth-based women's retailer hasn't seen sales recover amid the pandemic.

A Plymouth-based women's clothing retailer is considering its options, including selling the company and bankruptcy, as sales have slumped this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Christopher & Banks released its third-quarter financial results on Thursday, showing the company lost $10.8 million in the three-month period that ended Oct. 31. 

From August-October, the company's sales decreased by 22.6% compared to the same time last year. this was the result of lower sales in retail stores, which the company notes was partially offset by a 32.4% growth in online sales. 

Although the retailer saw "sequential improvement" in its sales trends in the third quarter compared to earlier in the pandemic, sales numbers didn't meet expectations, President and CEO Keri Jones said in a statement. 

"We have not seen the level of sales recovery that we had anticipated. We believe that COVID has had an outsized impact on our customer demographic as her shopping behavior is more pragmatic with limited demand for new outfits in the absence of social engagements," Jones said, noting retail trends show women are still hesitant to shop in stores. 

With the expectation that the pandemic will continue to have a negative impact on sales for the next "several months," Jones said Christopher & Banks has decided to "engage external advisors, including an investment banker, as we work to refinance our debt and explore other strategic alternatives."

The alternatives the company is looking into include further lease concessions and deferrals, further reductions of operating and capital expenditures, and refinancing the company's debt. It's also considering selling the company or its assets and "restructuring its debt and liabilities through a private restructuring or a restructuring under the protection of applicable bankruptcy laws."

Christopher & Banks does have hope for the future as the company expects sales to improve once the pandemic is under control.

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"While COVID has had an outsized impact on the customer demographic we serve, we believe that once we enter the post-pandemic world, she will return to her trusted resource for fashion, quality and value," Jones said. 

She added, "If given adequate financial runway, we continue to believe in our long-term potential based on the strategic foundation we have established, our loyal customer following and the traction we have gained in attracting new customers to our brand."

Braun's Fashions opened in Minneapolis in 1956 and rebranded to Christopher & Banks in 2000, according to the company's website. The company operates nearly 450 stores nationally, mostly in smaller markets with populations of fewer than 75,000 people. 

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