Teen retailer Claire’s files Chapter 11

HARLINGEN — In the end, ear-piercing couldn’t save it.

Teen fashion retailer Claire’s Stores Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today and executives announced it had reached an agreement with its private-equity backer Apollo Global Management LLC to restructure $1.9 billion in debt.

The fate of its 7,500 North American stores, including three in McAllen, and one each in Harlingen, Brownsville and Mercedes, isn’t yet known.

In court documents reported by Bloomberg News, Claire’s Chief Financial Officer Scott Huckins said Claire’s, which began ear-piercing in 1978 as a way to get more of its teens and “tweens” customers into its stores, had “pierced over 100,000,000 ears worldwide.”

But ear-piercing and accompanying jewelry sales apparently proved no match for online retailers, as well as what the company said was an 8 percent reduction year-over-year in U.S. mall foot traffic.

Claire’s is the latest in a long list of recent U.S. retail bankruptcies, including Gymboree, Gander Mountain, Sports Authority Inc., Toys “R” Us, Vitamin World, RadioShack, The Limited, Rue21 and Payless shoes, among others.

Claire’s executives said they hope the company will emerge from bankruptcy restructuring in September.

Claire’s in the Valley

Harlingen — Valle Vista Mall

Mercedes — Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets

Brownsville — Sunrise Mall

McAllen — Trenton Crossing, La Plaza Mall, Palms Crossing

Major retail bankruptcies 2017-18

Toys “R” Us

Aerosoles

Vitamin World

Perfumania

True Religion

Gymboree

Rue21

Payless

Gander Mountain

RadioShack

Eastern Outfitters

The Limited