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Goody's Family Clothing Inc. said Monday it is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and will close 103 stores, including its Bluffton location.
The company, a moderately priced retailer operating primarily in the Southeast, is also closing its distribution center in Arkansas.
There was no timetable on the closing of the Bluffton store as of Monday afternoon, said Will Euart, the senior leasing agent for Stafford Properties of Atlanta, which owns and leases the Bluffton Target Center on U.S. 278 east of S.C. 46.
The Bluffton store space should fill quickly after Goody's vacates it, and a few retailers have expressed interest, said Euart. He wouldn't say who those retailers are.
Meanwhile, Goody's chief executive Paul White wrote in an open letter to customers posted on the company Web site that "it is important for you to understand that Goody's is not going out of business."
The company identified 69 stores it will close in 18 of the 20 states where Goody's operates. More store closings will come later in the year. Most of the identified closings will be in the states where Goody's has 30 or more stores each -- North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
Five stores in South Carolina will close: in Bluffton, Columbia, Florence, Aiken and North Myrtle Beach. The company has 15 stores in the state.
Staff at the Bluffton store wouldn't comment on the closing. Calls to national representatives were not returned Monday afternoon.
The company didn't release how many of its 12,000 employees will lose their jobs.
Goody's is one of the anchors at the Bluffton Target Center, but its exit was anticipated. Stafford Properties had even been quietly marketing the 30,000-square-foot space that Goody's occupies in the 307,000-square-foot shopping center, Euart said.
"We've been planning on this for quite some time, just having seen what was happening with them at corporate," said Euart.
Goody's said it's filing a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, where the company is registered.
The filing comes less than three years after corporate namesake and then chairman-CEO Robert Goodfriend embraced a $327 million buyout by New York investment firms Prentice Capital Management and GMM Capital to take private the company founded by his father as an Athens, Tenn., outlet store in 1953.
Today, Goody's operates 355 stores across the South and Midwest. In January, the chain announced layoffs of 25 of its 500 employees at its corporate headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn.
The company said it decided to file for Chapter 11 after reviewing alternatives to address "pressures from tightening credit markets, strain on merchandise flow and a sizable but isolated number of under-performing stores in the chain."