Bebe expects to close all it stores by the end of May

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Women's clothing retailer Bebe Stores said Friday that it would close all of its locations after a string of losses, becoming the latest casualty in the retail sector as the fallout from online competition and shifting fashion preferences spreads. It hired a real estate adviser to look into its lease holdings and a financial adviser to explore "strategic alternatives".

The firm already had trimmed its store count to cut costs, and had said last month that it still had 134 Bebe stores in 31 states, Puerto Rico and Canada along with 34 Bebe outlet stores.

"The California-based company has been struggling to resonate with female shoppers and has lost money for the last four consecutive years", Forbes reported.

Bebe lost $13 million in the six months that ended December 31, the first half of its fiscal year, as its sales fell to $189.2 million, down 13.5% from the same period a year earlier.

The company's demise, which apparently comes without a bankruptcy filing, continues a wave of implosions among national retailers, as malls face declining foot traffic.

Retailers are grappling with intense online competition, namely from Amazon, and nimble brick-and-mortar competitors such as H&M and Forever 21.

"One thing that Bebe has going for it is that it hasn't taken on loads of debt in a bid to survive", Forbes said.

Bebe expects to recognize an impairment charge of about US$20 million from the store closures, which will be recorded in the third and fourth quarters.

Shares of Bebe rose 6.4% to close at $4.

Bebe Stores Inc. started in 1976 and describes itself as staying true to its "assertive, provocative origins".