FARGO -- A Fargo-based women’s clothing retailer will soon close about 140 stores across the country after filing for bankruptcy protection.

Vanity Shop of Grand Forks Inc., which is headquartered in Fargo and operates its stores under the name Vanity, is seeking Chapter 11 protection, according to a voluntary petition for relief filed Wednesday, March 1, in the District of North Dakota U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

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All Vanity stores will be closed, which will affect 1,200 to 1,400 employees nationally, said CEO and President Mickey Quinn. She said stores will remain open to sell off remaining inventory, with most stores expected to close by late March.

The Vanity store in Fargo’s West Acres Shopping Center will likely be one of the last to close in early April, she said.

Chapter 11 allows businesses and consumers to reorganize through a court-approved plan. The move gives a company relief from the threat of creditors’ lawsuits as it reorganizes, but the plan must be accepted by a majority of creditors.

Board Chairman Jim Bennett said it’s a decision the privately held company came to in February.

“It’s been a very difficult retail sector in the last three to four years and it just isn’t sustainable for us,” he said.

Quinn said customer surveys conducted by the National Retail Federation have shown the increasing hardships of retail stores operating in malls. While shoppers used to visit a mall multiple times each month, going into seven to 10 stores during each trip, they now only go maybe once a month to three to five stores.

“The whole industry change is across the whole U.S., and it’s impacting all retailers,” she said.

Vanity is owned by the Bottrell family in the Fargo area and Montana, according to Bennett, who said it’s a “very tough time” for the family.

“It’s not something that we wanted to do, but financially, we really don’t have a choice.”

Vanity got its start when the name was purchased from a dress shop in Dickinson, N.D., in 1957. The business was incorporated in 1966, and it established its headquarters in Fargo in 1974.