WILMINGTON, Del. — Bon-Ton Stores Inc., owner of Herberger’s, Younkers and 200 other regional department stores, confirmed it will go out of business after the winning bid in a bankruptcy auction for the company’s assets went to liquidators.
A hearing by the bankruptcy court to approve the sale and wind-down of the company’s operations is scheduled Wednesday, the company said in a statement late Tuesday.
“While we are disappointed by this outcome and tried very hard to identify bidders interested in operating the business as a going concern,” said Bill Tracy, Bon-Ton’s president and chief executive. He said Bon-Ton will work with the winning bidder to “ensure an orderly wind-down of operations.”
Bon-Ton had been in talks with U.S. mall owners Namdar Realty Group and Washington Prime Group Inc. to secure a bid that would have kept open a large portion of Bon-Ton locations. Bon-Ton is a major tenant of both landlords and its survival would have helped protect the value of their malls.
The failure of the company, with headquarters in York, Pa., and Milwaukee, comes weeks after Toys ‘R’ Us began a piecemeal liquidation of its namesake stores and Babies ‘R’ Us, the latest sign of upheaval in the retail industry.
The company has 14 Herberger’s stores in Minnesota, including at Rosedale and Southdale, and in St. Paul, Bloomington, Blaine and Stillwater. A clearance center in Maplewood closed several weeks ago.
It also has two Younkers in Minnesota, in Duluth and Austin, 16 Younkers stores in Iowa and more than 20 stores under four banners in Wisconsin — Herberger’s, Younkers, Boston Store and Elder-Beerman.
The company’s store lines also include Carson’s, Bergner’s and Bon-Ton.
Shares in the company fell 42 percent to 4 cents on Tuesday.
Money raised from the auction will be used to repay what is owed to Bon-Ton’s creditors.
Once the company selects a winning bidder and the proposed deal is approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., the liquidator can begin selling the inventory, store leases, fixtures and intellectual property.
One liquidator group estimated its initial bid was worth about $650 million, according to a creditor representative.
The company, which traces its roots to 1854, said on its website that it has survived the U.S. Civil War, Great Depression and “profound cultural and technological transformations.”
But many storied retailers have struggled amid the current industry disruption from low-margin discounters such as Walmart and the increasing popularity of online shopping, dominated by Amazon.
Sports Authority Holdings Inc., apparel chain the Limited Stores LLC and electronics seller HHGregg Inc. are among the chains that have gone out of business recently.
Bon-Ton and Toys ‘R’ Us together operated nearly 60 million square feet (5.6 million square meters) of store space, according to their latest annual reports, and employed a combined 83,000 people when they entered bankruptcy.
Bon-Ton filed for bankruptcy in February and Toys ‘R’ Us in September.
Staff writer John Ewoldt contributed to this story.