Bentley to restructure by closing 88 stores and shedding hundreds of jobs

MONTREAL — Baggage retailer Bentley says it has secured the backing of lenders and key stakeholders to exit creditor protection while shutting more than one-third of its stores and shedding hundreds of employees.

The Montreal-based company said the support of employees, landlords and suppliers was critical for its restructuring that will provide new lines of credit and a strengthened balance sheet.

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Bentley says it plans to operate 163 stores and employ 1,300 people.

The retailer formally notified its creditors on Nov. 27 of its plan to restructure while under court protection. The move came more than a decade after an earlier restructuring.

Bentley claimed this time that the chain's profitability had been hurt by changing consumer behaviour, disruptions from internet shopping and the challenges associated with operating more than 250 stores across the country.

Founded in 1987 in St. John's, N.L., Bentley has grown to be one of the largest Canadian retailers of luggage, handbags, business bags and travel accessories.

"The last couple of weeks have been very difficult for all our employees, particularly with the holiday season so close," stated president and chief executive Walter Lamothe.

"We were pleased to be able to end the uncertainty faced by our staff, although clearly it is very sad that we were unable to save all the stores."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 13, 2019.

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