Apparel maker Onward Holdings Co. plans to close around 700 outlets at home and abroad by the end of the current business year next February.

The move, sparked by stagnant sales at its outlets in department stores and a decrease in customers due to the coronavirus pandemic, was announced Monday by President Michinobu Yasumoto at a news conference to release Onward’s earnings for the 2019 business year.

The company hopes to improve performance by streamlining operations and shifting more of its focus to online sales.

Onward will not cut jobs in line with the closures. Instead, employees from shuttered shops will be relocated to other positions within the group.

The company sells items from various women’s clothing brands, including Kumikyoku, mainly at shops in department stores.

The company already closed some 700 nonperforming stores last year. With this year’s closings, its total outlets will fall to about 1,600, down about 50 percent from the end of February 2019.

In the 2019 business year, Onward logged a consolidated net loss of ¥52.1 billion due to the impact of the consumption tax hike to 10 percent from 8 percent in October and sluggish sales of winter clothing due to relatively warm weather.

The company did no release an earnings forecast for the current year, citing difficulties predicting the effect of the pandemic.

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