US apparel retailer Harold's Stores Inc is to cease operations after increased competition and a weak economy took their toll.

The 18-state chain, which sells to customers between the ages of 30 and 50, will now commence a Going-Out-of-Business sale throughout the US, managed by investment firm Gordon Brothers Group.

Yesterday, an Oklahoma bankruptcy court approved plans for the 60-year-old retail chain to begin its sale, with two stores to close in Alabama.

"Increased competition and a weak economy have left us no choice but to cease operations," said Ronald S Staffieri, chief executive officer of Harold's Stores.

In September just-style reported that Harold's had obtained a US$1.8m subordinated loan from Ronus Inc.