More retail closures coming to Grand Forks

The recent bankruptcy filing of Ascena Retail Group means more stores will be closing in Grand Forks.

Ascena is the parent company of women’s and girl’s clothing brands, including Lane Bryant, Catherines and Justice. A July 23 report in The Washington Post states the company will close about a third of its 2,800 stores after years of declining sales.

In Grand Forks, Catherines will be closing, along with its 263 other locations, and Lane Bryant is set to close on Aug. 9, as well, though the Fargo and Duluth stores will remain open. Justice, in Columbia Mall, will close after it liquidates its inventory.

“It’s pretty sad,” said Monique Martin, a manager at Grand Forks’ Lane Bryant. “It was pretty fast, but we kind of saw it coming when we saw that they filed bankruptcy.”

A manager at Catherines referred the Herald to the corporate office for comment.

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Ascena began as Dressbarn in the 1960s and grew to become one of the largest retailers in women’s clothing. The Dressbarn label was closed in December to allow the company to save money and focus on its other brands.

According to The Washington Post report, Ascena is yet another victim of the coronavirus pandemic, and perhaps its own short-sightedness. The company closed 90% of its locations in mid-March, when the illness spread through the country, and it borrowed heavily to keep operating. Ascena was criticized by industry watchers for focusing exclusively on women’s fashion, and relying on shopping mall-based stores, at a time when traffic to those malls has been declining for years.

In Grand Forks, the upcoming closures represent the continuing downward slide in retail, that saw Macy’s close in 2017, with Sears closing the following year. Closures continued with Kmart and Shopko in East Grand Forks and multiple stores in Columbia Mall, including Shoe Carnival and Gap.