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Why Nine West, in bankruptcy, won’t sell shoes anymore

Nine West, which has more than $1 billion in debt, is the latest retailer to file for bankruptcy. (Lynne Sladky/AP)

Nine West Holdings, known for its ubiquitous footwear, filed for bankruptcy Friday and said it would sell its struggling shoe business, having missed the athletic shoe trend.

The New York-based company said it would focus instead on its jewelry and clothing lines, which include Anne Klein, Kasper Group and One Jeanswear Group.

The retailer has faced several challenges in recent years, including slumping demand for ballet flats, sandals and high heels as consumers spend more of their money on athletic shoes and sneakers. Analysts said the decline of shopping malls and department stores — many of which sell Nine West products — also exacerbated its demise.

“This is a brand that has really struggled to differentiate itself,” said Sucharita Kodali, a retail analyst for market research firm Forrester. “The only bright spot in the footwear industry has been athletic wear, and that’s not what Nine West sells.”

Nine West, which is owned by private-equity firm Sycamore Capital, owes more than $1 billion to as many as 50,000 creditors, according to court documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

The company said it is in talks to sell its Nine West and Bandolino shoe and handbag businesses to Authentic Brands Group, which oversees a range of brands including Neil Lane, Frye, Aeropostale and Juicy Couture.

“This is the right step to address our two divergent business profiles,” Ralph Schipani, chief executive of Nine West Holdings, said in a statement.

Nine West is the latest in a string of high-profile retailers to file for bankruptcy in the past year, as heavy debt loads and changing consumer preferences take their toll on the industry. Claire’s, Bon-Ton and the Walking Company are among those that have filed for bankruptcy so far this year, and analysts say more are likely to follow. Toys R Us, which filed for bankruptcy in September, is in the process of liquidating all 800 of its U.S. stores.

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