NEW YORK, July 9 (Reuters) - U.S. apparel chain Steve & Barry's LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Wednesday and said it may put itself up for sale, joining a growing list of retailers seeking protection from creditors in a slow economy.
The privately held company and 63 affiliates sought protection with the U.S. bankruptcy court in Manhattan, citing tight credit markets, higher costs and a pull-back in customer spending that left it unable to pay its debts.
With 276 retail stores, Steve & Barry's is known for for selling inexpensive clothes and lines designed by celebrities like actress Sarah Jessica Parker, basketball player Stephon Marbury and tennis player Venus Williams.
"High costs of materials and fuel prices have increased our cost of goods and cost of operating," Steve Shore and Barry Prevor, who founded the company 23 years ago, said in a statement. "Our customers are feeling the pain of high food and gas prices and declining home values, and many of them are being forced to shop closer to their homes and cut back on discretionary purchases."
The Port Washington, New York-based company also said it cut 172 jobs on Wednesday.
Steve & Barry's has between $500 million and $1 billion of assets, debt in a similar range, and more than 100,000 creditors, according to its bankruptcy petition.
Other retailers with hundreds of stores each have also filed for bankruptcy protection this year, including Goody's Family Clothing Inc, Linens 'n Things Inc, Sharper Image Inc, and jewelers Friedman's Inc and Whitehall Jewelers Holdings Inc (WHJHQ.OB: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz).
Steve & Barry's had 276 retail stores at the time of its bankruptcy filing, it said, and expects to operate as usual during the bankruptcy process. It will continue to honor gift cards and store credits, the company said in the statement. (Editing by Steve Orlofsky, Richard Chang)