National children’s retailer with nine area stores files for bankruptcy

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Gymboree Corp., the struggling children’s clothing retailer that operates nine area stores under multiple names, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday.

The San Francisco-based retailer said it planned to stay in business, but would need to close 375 to 450 of its 1,281 stores to remain viable as a retailer.

Gymboree operates four stores under its flagship name at some of the Indianapolis-area's top shopping centers—The Fashion Mall at Keystone, Clay Terrace, Hamilton Town Center and Greenwood Park Mall.

It also operates four stores under the Crazy 8 name—at Castleton Square, Clay Terrace, Hamilton Town Center and Greenwood Park Mall.

And it owns the Janie and Jack chain, which has a store at the Fashion Mall and an outlet store in Edinburgh.

The company didn’t announce which stores would be closing.

Gymboree hasn’t posted an annual profit since 2011, with losses totaling more than $800 million. The company carries a heavy debt load as the result of its $1.8 billion acquisition by Boston-based private-equity giant Bain Capital in 2010.

The company has about $1.4 billion in debt and is hoping to shed about $900 million of that amount in bankruptcy and through a new financing agreement.

The company said Chief Financial Officer Andrew North would step down and be replaced on an interim basis by Liyuan Woo, a director with restructuring adviser AlixPartners.

Retailers have been hammered by a decline in mall shopping and the rise of online competitors like Inc. Gymboree, which has most of its stores in malls, goes head-to-head with specialty chains such as Children’s Place Inc., as well as mass merchants like Target Corp.

The Gymboree Corp. got its start in 1976 with the founding of Gymboree Play & Music, which offers a variety of classes for children 5 and under. There are about 700 Gymboree Play & Music locations worldwide, including area locations in Carmel and Greenwood.

The company began opening clothing stores in 1986.

In 2016, the company agreed to sell its play-center business to a Singapore-based investment group for $127.5 million. That narrowed Gymboree’s focus to apparel.

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