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Fashion brand Cecil McBee to close all stores

Trendsetter will shutter 43 locations by February as contagion kills sales

Cecil McBee, already challenged by H&M and other competitors, was dealt another blow by the coronavirus.

TOKYO -- Japanese apparel maker Japan Imagination will close all brick-and-mortar outlets of its core brand, Cecil McBee, Nikkei has learned.

The brand mainly targets young people in their teens and twenties, and has gained in popularity since the 1990s. But sales have been trending down since peaking in 2007. The economic effects of COVID-19 pandemic have also hastened the brand's decline.

The company will close all 43 Cecil McBee stores across Japan by February 2021, with its branch in the fashion hotspot of Shibuya scheduled to close in November.

Japan Imagination will also end several other brands and shutter 92 stores -- nearly 90% of its locations -- and lay off most of its 570 employees.

Cecil McBee launched in the 1980s and gained a huge following among young people. Its flagship store in a popular Shibuya shopping tower recorded monthly sales of about 100 million yen ($932,000) during its peak.

But the brand began to be eclipsed by Forever 21, H&M and other newcomers, falling into the red in fiscal 2020 with sales of 12.1 billion yen, about half of its former high.

The pandemic dealt the latest blow to the brand, as stores in many parts of Japan were shut down for more than two months to curb the contagion. Although stores reopened in mid-May, there are growing concerns over a second wave of infections.

The company decided to shutter Cecil McBee outlets as it would be impossible to cover costs if retail stores are requested to close again. However, the brand will still be available online.

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