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Originally published Friday, April 11, 2014 at 5:36 PM

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Coldwater Creek plans liquidation sales before Mother’s Day

The Sandpoint, Idaho-based women’s clothing retailer filed for bankruptcy protection with a plan to start going-out-of-business sales before May 11.

Bloomberg News

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Coldwater Creek, the women’s clothing retailer that hasn’t posted an annual profit since 2007, filed for bankruptcy protection with a plan to start going-out-of-business sales in time for Mother’s Day.

Founded as a catalog business 30 years ago, the company said it intends to start liquidating inventory just before the May 11 holiday, a peak sales period for the retailer. The company listed assets of $278.5 million and debt of $361.3 million in Chapter 11 papers filed Friday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

The chain said revenue peaked at $1.1 billion in 2006. It expanded from 198 stores in 2005 to 336 locations in 2007 before the global economic downturn stunted its financial success and triggered a series of management changes, according to court filings. It has nine stores in Washington, including outlets in Bellevue Square, Kent Station, Alderwood mall and the Tacoma Mall, according to its website.

Coldwater has struggled in recent years due to weak consumer spending and a failure to find fashions that resonated with customers. It hadn’t posted a quarterly profit since the second quarter of 2010.

In an attempt to keep its business afloat, the company had cut costs and closed some stores, including its downtown Seattle store, which closed in January 2010 after operating 10 years in the old Nordstrom building at Fifth Avenue and Pine Street.

Coldwater also made other moves to improve its profitability, but declines in sales trends continued to intensify. Sales at stores open at least a year plunged 17 percent in the quarter ended Nov. 2.

Coldwater said last year that it was exploring strategic alternatives, including a sale. The retailer reached out to more than 75 parties as it sought refinancing or a buyer and “publicly invited strategic alternative proposals of any nature,” Chief Operating Officer James A. Bell said in a court filing.

The shares have declined 95 percent in 12 months, including a 17 percent drop Thursday and a nearly 31.6 percent drop Friday that brought the price of a share down to 13 cents. That stock price values the retailer at $4 million.

“The company’s declining liquidity position and the challenging retail environment, together with the fact that we have exhausted all other possibilities, requires that we take this action,” Jill Dean, Coldwater’s chief executive officer, said Friday.

Coldwater asked U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Brendan Linehan Shannon to schedule a sale-approval hearing for May 6 in the hope it can start the liquidation before Mother’s Day and maximize sales for creditors, according to the filing.

The retailer also asked the court to name a joint venture of Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners as a “stalking-horse,” or lead bidder.

Coldwater said it reached agreement with lenders on the liquidation plan and received a $75 million commitment in debtor-in-possession financing from Wells Fargo & Co., a current lender. Holders of common stock aren’t expected to recover any of their investment.

Dennis Pence, a former Sony executive, started Coldwater Creek as a catalog in 1984, selling women’s accessories and gifts, according to a 2005 Businessweek profile.

Coldwater began opening stores in the 1990s and had 379 locations as of Nov. 2, including 31 factory outlet stories and seven day spas. The company has 330 employees at its headquarters and more than 5,500 elsewhere, according to court filings.

Coldwater posted losses totaling $59.6 million in the first three quarters of the fiscal year ended Feb. 2, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It had a loss of $81.8 million last year.

An affiliate of Golden Gate Capital in 2012 extended a $65 million senior secured-term loan to Coldwater in return for preferred stock that’s convertible to as much as 6.1 million shares of common stock, according to company filings.

Comenity Bank and Groupon are the two biggest creditors without collateral backing their claims, according to court documents.

Information from The Associated Press and Seattle Times archives

is included in this report.

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