As Linda O’Banion of Armstrong looked through a rack of clearance-priced summer tops at Fashion Bug Tuesday morning, she pointed out, “I’ve got this one, and this one, and this one.”
It goes without saying that O’Banion is a fan of Fashion Bug, a mainstay of moderate-priced women’s specialty clothing for decades.
O’Banion said she was “sad” to learn that all Fashion Bug stores, including the Danville location, will close by early 2013.
Fashion Bug has been a part of Danville for at least 30 years. The store was one of Towne Centre’s first tenants when it opened in April 1983. In September 2002, Fashion Bug relocated to its current location at Pine Tree Plaza at Danville Crossings.
Ascena Retail Group acquired Fashion Bug’s parent company, Charming Shoppes, in June for about $900 million and decided to close all 600 Fashion Bug locations in 43 states.
As part of the sale, Ascena also acquired Charming Shoppe’s Lane Bryant and Catherine’s stores. Ascena also owns Maurice’s, which has a store at the Village Mall, and Dress Barn.
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said he was made aware only recently the local Fashion Bug would be closing.
“Obviously, we’re extremely disappointed because it leaves a void in that part of the area,” he said.
“But with Ross Dress for Less and the excitement for Kohl’s and TJ Maxx, they will help fill the need in the community,” he added.
Eisenhauer stressed that Fashion Bug’s pending closure was “not a local decision nor was it due to the local economy, but rather it was a nationwide move.”
He said he hoped the store’s closure would prompt developers to consider bringing more apparel retailers to the area.
The two employees working Tuesday morning at the Danville Fashion Bug said they were not permitted to talk to the media about the store’s closure and deferred questions to Gayle Coolick, vice president of investor relations for Charming Shoppes in Bensalem, Pa.
“We have greatly enjoyed doing business in Danville and would like to thank our customers for their loyalty,” Coolick said. “With our recently completed merger with the Ascena Retail Group, we have made the difficult decision to close our Fashion Bug business.”
Inventory reduction sales began Sept. 2 at all Fashion Bug stores. New fall merchandise is marked down 20 percent, while summer clothing is discounted up to 60 percent. All sales are final.
Coolick said that although there is no final schedule of store closing dates, many Fashion Bug locations will remain open through the end of the year.
“We will continue to operate locations as inventory remains available for us to present to our customers,” she said. “Our stores will continue to present new arrivals of fall fashion.”
Coolick said closing dates for each store will be based on a number of factors, such as inventory availability and the terms of the lease agreement with the landlord.
She said whether another Ascena-owned store would occupy a former Fashion Bug location would be “considered store-by-store based upon a number of factors.”
The racks were full of clothing and accessories at the Danville store Tuesday, and employees told customers that new merchandise was still coming in every Tuesday and they expected to keep receiving shipments of new merchandise up until December.
That was little consolation to Melissa Outman of Covington, Ind., who called Fashion Bug her go-to store.
“When I don’t have time to go to Champaign or Indianapolis to go shopping, I come here for my last-minute fashion things,” she said.
“I’m sad,” she said of the store’s closing. “They’re going to be missed.”
O’Banion said she, too, was “sad.”
“This is one of my favorite stores in town. I’m very disappointed they’re closing all the stores,” she said.