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David's Bridal has filed for bankruptcy again

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

David's Bridal, the company that has dressed American brides for more than 70 years, has filed for bankruptcy. The chain is assuring shoppers that stores are open, that all orders should stay on schedule. But the company is also planning to lay off thousands of workers. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: In recent years, David's bridal has claimed to be selling every third wedding dress in America, which almost makes its bankruptcy filing seem like a paradox, says Sucharita Kodali, retail analyst at Forrester.

SUCHARITA KODALI: What's ironic is that last year and this year should be banner years for weddings.

SELYUKH: The pandemic lockdowns eventually unleashed a wedding boom. Behind the veil, David's Bridal has been hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

KODALI: They've been struggling for years and had been in different forms of bankruptcy.

SELYUKH: David's Bridal grew from a single boutique in Florida in 1950, actually run by a guy named David, to a nationwide chain of some 300 stores.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Find unforgettable dresses for every occasion, starting under $100.

SELYUKH: The stores are mazes of racks of gowns and fancy outfits in a lot of different sizes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: From weddings to award ceremonies to proms to parties to quinceaneras to graduations to girls nights.

SELYUKH: First came something borrowed. In 2012, a private equity firm bought David's Bridal. The deal saddled it with debt. Then something new - a changing industry. Couples began marrying later. Weddings got smaller, more casual. People bought more gowns online and secondhand. In 2018, David's Bridal went through bankruptcy, but it was rapid - a matter of weeks just to restructure debt - except then the pandemic hit. The chains spent a lot on rents for stores nobody visited, on dealing with factory shutdowns abroad. And now the cost of making payments on its loans has escalated, says Kodali.

KODALI: When you're in debt and interest rates go up, like, that's probably the biggest issue.

SELYUKH: What David's Bridal wants is for someone to buy it, the whole company. Meanwhile, it's filed government notices that it plans to lay off 9,200 workers. That's a vast majority. The layoffs are planned over the course of four months. So David's Bridal says it intends to keep delivering bridal orders without disruption or delay. And stores, for now, remain open till debt do us part. Alina Selyukh, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.