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Archive for Friday, October 8, 1999

S STORE IN LAWRENE MALL UNCERTAIN

October 8, 1999

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London Fog has filed for bankruptcy protection, leaving the future of its Lawrence outlet store in doubt.

The international apparel retailer, under pressure from mounting debts, last week announced a "significant operational and financial restructuring" that included filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

A company spokesperson said she did not know the fate of the London Fog Outlet Store in the Lawrence Riverfront Plaza but that a list of stores targeted for closure could be released within a week.

Word inside the company is that only selected locations on the East and West coasts will be retained, while stores in Kansas -- in Lawrence, Colby and Olathe's Great Mall of the Great Plains -- will be closed.

London Fog Industries, based in Eldersburg, Md., has 1,500 employees and operates more than 140 outlets in the United States and Puerto Rico. Annual sales are $300 million.

But it isn't enough.

William Dragon Jr., the company's president and chief executive officer, said the company had "reassessed" its ongoing plans for direct retail sales and instead would focus on the company's major wholesale brands. Among them: London Fog, Pacific Trail, Black Dot and Towne, plus licensed brands of Dockers and Levi's.

"We should not be competing directly with our retail partners," said Dragon, in a statement. "As well, the company simply has too much debt."

Reorganizing under bankruptcy protection -- along with $130 million in financial backing from Congress Financial Corp. -- will allow for the restructuring of its debt and the elimination of the company's unprofitable retail stores, he said.

The Lawrence store, opened a decade ago, covers 3,500 square feet and has five employees.

-- Mark Fagan's phone message number is 832-7188. His e-mail address is mfagan@ljworld.com.

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