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Laura's emerges from creditor protection with store renovation, e-commerce plans

TORONTO – Canadian retailer Laura’s Shoppe Inc. has emerged from creditor protection four months after filing to renegotiate its debts.

The Montreal-based owner of more than 140 women’s clothing stores, under the various Laura banners and Melanie Lyne, filed for protection on July 31 and later shuttered 15 stores in a cost-cutting measure.

The privately held company said Thursday that 96 per cent of its creditors holding 99 per cent of its debt signed off on a restructuring plan, which includes renovating existing stores and investments in technology, on Nov. 30.

In July, the company said it had posted large losses in 2012 and 2013 after missteps with merchandise that didn’t resonate with its customers.

Despite returning to profitability in 2014, the move to seek protection from its debts was necessary to deal with the hangover from two bad years, the company said.

Laura’s said the restructuring plan will see stores renovated with new fitting rooms and lounge areas to enhance its by-appointment personalized shopping. The company, which has two e-commerce sites, said it will also improve its online offerings to deliver a more personalized experience.

In early September, Laura’s said it had struck deals with landlords at several malls to cut rents and that its suppliers offered significant discounts on clothes for the fall season. The company has now renegotiated more than 50 of its existing leases.

The company closed 15 stores later that month, and a further five stores will close before the end of January. The company said other savings came from eliminating jobs at its head office.

Laura’s said that after the restructuring is complete, it will employ around 2,000 workers across Canada in stores, its distribution centre and its back office.

Laura’s, which operates in all provinces except Prince Edward Island, was founded in 1930. Company president Kalman Fisher is the grandson of founder Laura Wolstein.