Plus-size fashion retailer Ashley Stewart has filed for bankruptcy in a move which will result in the closure of 27 underperforming stores and a possible sale of the business.

The company, which operates more than 168 stores across 24 states in the US, filed for a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 with the US Bankruptcy Court in Newark, New Jersey, on Monday (10 March). 

In a statement sent to just-style yesterday, Ashley Stewart said it was a "necessary step" to position the retailer for growth.

It added that the group will work with stakeholders to implement a restructuring plan, which will likely result in a sale of substantially all of its assets as a going concern to one of the financial or strategic buyers that have expressed an interest. 

"We are encouraged to see that several entities from both the financial and apparel industries have expressed interest in Ashley Stewart," said Michael Abate, senior vice president of finance, treasurer and secretary.

In 2012, Ashley Stewart saw its revenue and profitability decline due to a number of factors that the company said have since been corrected.

Over the last six months, the new senior management team has streamlined the company's costs and refocused its merchandising and e-commerce strategies.