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Specialty Fashion Group to close at least 300 stores

Australian apparel retailer Specialty Fashion Group Ltd. plans to close at least 300 stores and rationalize brands in an effort to improve its earnings, The Australian Financial Review reported Nov. 21.

The owner of Katies, Rivers and City Chic apparel brands currently operates about 1,019 stores and has been struggling due to a six-year slide in earnings, according to the report.

The company plans to close more than 100 of these stores in 2017, and another 300 stores that are on "hold over" leases by 2020, amid increasing its investment in e-commerce, the report said. The store closures will reduce its presence to about 700 stores.

The newspaper quoted Specialty Fashion's outgoing CEO Gary Perlstein as saying that 159 of the 300 stores scheduled to be closed reported a 30% year-over-year rise in losses despite many cost-reduction attempts.

Most of the loss-making stores fall under the retailer's Crossroads and Autograph clothing brands, the report said.

The company stated in October that earnings in the December half of the fiscal year could decline by half to between A$14 million and A$17 million, the report said.