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Bon-Ton to close doors

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The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. is headed to its final close-out sale.

Unable to find a buyer that would keep it going, the department-store chain said Tuesday night it accepted a buy-out bid that would result in its liquidation, leading potentially to thousands of layoffs and acres of empty retail space.

"While we are disappointed by this outcome and tried very hard to identify bidders interested in operating the business as a going concern, we are committed to working constructively with the winning bidder to ensure an orderly wind-down of operations that minimizes the impact of this development on our associates, customers, vendors and the communities we serve," Bon-Ton President and CEO Bill Tracy said in a statement.

The winning bid came from a joint venture comprised of Great American Group LLC, Tiger Capital Group LLC and a group of creditors who hold second-lien secured notes due 2021, according to the statement. Great American and Tiger Capital, both liquidation specialists, are involved in winding down Toys R Us.

They beat out a competing bid from a group composed of liquidation specialists Hilco Merchant Services LLC and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners. They also are involved in the Toys R Us close-out.

Financial terms were not disclosed. But in the statement, Bon-Ton said it would provide more details about the liquidation plans and going-out-of-business sales at its stores once the winning bid is approved by the bankruptcy court. A hearing to approve the deal is scheduled for April 18.

Bon-Ton warned last month in layoff notices that closure would lead to the loss of 332 jobs at its headquarters in Springettsbury Township, York County, and 184 workers at its store in Park City Center in Lancaster County, as well as 140 workers at two stores in the Lehigh Valley. No notices were issued for its other stores in Central Pennsylvania. Overall the company employs about 21,000 people.

The retailer filed for bankruptcy in early February following years of financial struggles in a retail environment that has become increasingly hostile to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. 

The company, which has dual headquarters in York County and Milwaukee, operates about 240 stores in 23 states under the Bon-Ton, Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's and Younkers banners. 

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