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New owner to close Fashion Bug stores by early 2013; Women's clothing chain had already been shrinking

Fashion Bug stores will close by early next year, a casualty of a change in ownership of the women's clothing chain.

Fashion Bug's website lists nine stores in Erie and Niagara counties, among more than 600 locations in 39 states. Details of the stores' closings have not been announced.

The news came as Ascena Retail Group completed its $900 million acquisition of Pennsylvania-based Charming Shoppes Inc., the owner of the Fashion Bug and Lane Bryant chains.

Ascena said it decided to shut down the Fashion Bug chain based on the results of its strategic review of Charming Shoppes' operations. Charming Shoppes will operate as a subsidiary of Ascena.

Fashion Bug had already been shrinking. Last year, Charming Shoppes closed 124 Fashion Bug stores, and it had announced plans to close certain other of the stores.

Ascena is a specialty retailer of apparel for women and "tween" girls through its subsidiaries, Dressbarn, Maurice's and Justice. Its deal for Charming Shoppes was announced in early May.

About half of the Fashion Bug stores' leases are expiring at the end of this year or the start of next year. A small number of Fashion Bug stores, perhaps 10 percent or less, will switch to another Ascena retail format, as Fashion Bug goes away.

The exact timing of the closings, or which stores will change formats, has not yet been announced.

Ascena said it is also "exploring a potential sale" of Charming Shoppes' Figi's business, which markets food and specialty gift products. Ascena said although Figi's is a "growing and profitable business," it is outside the apparel arena.