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Ailing Pier 1 Imports declares bankruptcy

Pier 1 Imports closing stores

Pier 1 Imports declared bankruptcy on Monday in a move aimed at facilitating a sale of the struggling home furnishings company.

The publicly listed retailer is in talks with multiple potential buyers, the company said in a statement that did not disclose possible buyers. It also reiterated a previously announced plan to cut about 40% of headquarters staff and close as many as 450 stores, or about half of the chain's locations. That includes all of its stores in Canada.

"Today's actions are intended to provide Pier 1 with additional time and financial flexibility as we now work to unlock additional value for our stakeholders through a sale," CEO Robert Riesbeck said in a statement. "We are moving ahead in this process with the support of our lenders and are pleased with the initial interest as we engage in discussions with potential buyers," added Riesbeck, a restructuring expert who took the helm of the debt-laden retailer in November.

As of March 2019, the company had roughly 18,000 employees in the U.S. and Canada, with about 4,000 of those jobs full-time, according to the company's last annual financial report.

Pier 1's sales and profits have slumped in recent years. Its revenue fell from nearly $1.9 billion in 2016 to $1.4 billion last year, with the company losing $310 million in 2019.

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During its heyday in the late 1990s, the company's stock price once topped $400. But the shares tumbled in the ensuing years, sinking more than 80%, to $3.56, over the last 12 months. 

Pier 1 listed assets and liabilities of more than $500 million in its filing in U.S. bankruptcy court in Richmond, Virginia. The company is requesting that the court set March 23 as a deadline for bids to be accepted. 

Founded in 1962, the company is one of many large retailers that have shuttered stores or gone bankrupt in recent years amid intense competition from ecommerce. The hedge fund parent of Sears and Kmart has continued closing dozens of stores since a 2018 bankruptcy. More recently, stationary chain Papyrus said in January that it planned to close all of its 254 stores across the U.S. and lay off some 1,400 workers.

Pier 1 will continue operating during the bankruptcy process, and is asking the bankruptcy court to set March 23 as a deadline for bids to be accepted.

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