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Forever 21 Files Bankruptcy, Will Close 178 Stores Nationally

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Fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and is slated to close as many as 350 stores globally, with more than half in the U.S. 

In a letter to customers earlier this week, the private and family-owned company said the filing would allow Forever 21 to continue running the operation and take "positive steps to reorganize the business so we can return to profitability."

Forever 21 Files Bankruptcy, Will Close 178 Stores Nationally

"This does NOT mean that we are going out of business — on the contrary, filing for bankruptcy protection is a deliberate and decisive step to put us on a successful track for the future," the company said in a statement.

Founded in 1984 and originally named Fashion 21, the Los Angeles-based retailer quickly made an indelible mark on retail. The company propelled the fast-fashion trend of creating and producing affordable trendy designer clothing for mostly teens and female customers.

The company's success spawned competitors such as H&M and Zara. And as the company grew, its gleaming Forever 21 signage was a common sight as anchors at shopping malls across the country and around the world. The average Forever 21 store footprint is 38K SF and the largest store is 162K SF, according to the company website.

But over the past couple of years, Forever 21 not only became a victim of its own success but also fell out of style with a new generation of consumers. 

With rapid expansion plans, the company perhaps grew and expanded too quickly and lost touch with a new generation of environmentally conscious consumers that preferred to shop online rather than in-store and frowned upon the impact of accumulating and throwing away clothing. 

In its bankruptcy filing, Forever 21, which operated 800 stores worldwide, said it is expected to close 178 of its 500 stores in the U.S., according to the Associated Press.

"The decisions as to which domestic stores will be closing are ongoing, pending the outcome of continued conversations with landlords," Forever 21 said in the letter. 

The company also said it would close locations in Asia and Europe. Forever 21s in Mexico and Latin America are safe for now, the AP reported.

"We are confident this is the right path for the long-term health of our business," Forever 21 officials said. "Once we complete a reorganization, Forever 21 will be a stronger, more viable company that is better positioned to prosper for years to come."