L.A. Apparel Firm Bisou Bisou Plans To Close 8 Stores

by Deborah Belgum

Bisou Bisou, the Los Angeles-based manufacturer and retailer of trend-setting clothing, has decided to close eight of its 19 stores after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month.

Chief Executive Marc Bohbot said he is keeping the stores in Los Angeles, one of the company's strongest areas, and closing the outlets in Washington, D.C., Denver, Las Vegas, Palm Beach, Phoenix and San Francisco.

Bohbot said many of the stores located in malls have not done as well as anticipated because of the down economy, among other factors.

"Our problem is a real estate situation," said Bohbot, whose wife, Michele, founded the company. "Eventually the liability we had with the landlords was hard and they wouldn't renegotiate."

In its filing, the company reported $6 million in liabilities and $1.5 million in assets.

Burger Bargain

The first deal might have fallen through, but Prandium Inc. is still shopping its 14 Hamburger Hamlets. The sale of the restaurants, most of them in Los Angeles, is necessary so that Prandium can pay off bondholders and then enter into voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Prandium, which also owns Koo Koo Roo, a fast-food chain, and Chi-Chi's, a Mexican-food chain, had expected to sell the Hamburger Hamlets to Othello Holding Corp. of Los Angeles. But the deal fell through, said Robert Carl, a spokesman for Irvine-based Prandium.

Prandium has been in financial difficulties for some time, defaulting last year on its long-term loans held with Foothill Capital Corp., Carl said.

The company wants to reorganize to restructure its loans at a lower interest rate, he said. But the prepackaged bankruptcy is contingent on selling Hamburger Hamlets. Prandium officials said they were talking to other companies interested in purchasing the hamburger chain.

Prandium sold its 100-unit El Torito eateries in 2000. It has 140 Chi-Chi restaurants and 43 Koo Koo Roo fast-food chicken restaurants.

Higher Learning

A gambit by music retailer Moby Disc to sell new and used CDS at UCLA has provided the company with an unhappy lesson in retailing to college students.

The chain last week closed its store at Ackerman Student Union. It was the first and last campus store Moby Disc will have.

The outlet did poorly when students were on vacation during the summer and sales were practically dead during the holiday season in December because of the long student break.

"The best two weeks in the entire year for retail sales is in December and we closed," said Moby Disc president Steve Furst from the company's Portland, Ore., headquarters.

Moby Disc makes a profit by selling used CDs for more than it repurchases them. But students were not bringing in used CDs to sell. "All of a sudden we had a store model that was different from our other stores," Furst said.

Staff reporter Deborah Belgum can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 228 or at dbelgum@labusinessjournal.com.

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