Retail operator Big M Inc, owner of the Mandee, Annie Sez and Afaze stores, has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

It blamed store closures and damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in the run-up to the key holiday season.

The company operates 129 stores selling fashion, footwear and accessories, with corporate offices and a distribution centre based in Totowa, New Jersey. Its Mandee stores sell clothing for women aged 16-35, the the Annie Sez chain sells off-price designer wear, and Afaze focuses on accessories and jewellery.

In April last year the retailer shrugged off bankruptcy rumours after securing $20m in working capital financing from Salus Capital Partners to refinance its existing credit facility and fund general corporate activities.