The coronavirus pandemic could claim one of Ballarat's oldest brands, with the Rivers label's parent company Mosaic Brands announcing a $221 million loss.
In a media statement, Mosaic Brands managing director and chief executive Scott Evans said the company's forecasts had been "utterly derailed" by the pandemic and bushfires, and could close between 300 and 500 of its 1333 stores across the country in the next 12 to 24 months.
Mosaic owns Rivers, as well as Noni B, Katies, Rockmans, and several other clothing brands.
The media statement notes the company is addressing its "exposure to long lease terms", with 41 per cent of its current leases on hold or expiring in December, and 87 per cent in the next two years.
"There is no roadmap to navigate these circumstances, but our operational priorities have been ensuring team and customer safety, reducing inventory and maintaining a strong cash position," Mr Evans said.
"This has allowed us to reshape Mosaic to take advantage of the fundamental changes happening in retail.
"Shuttered stores work for no one so we aim to minimise closures, but not on uncommercial terms."
In March, the company stood down thousands of workers as the pandemic hit - in the media statement, chairman Richard Facioni said "many of our customers and team members are in the most vulnerable segment that COVID-19 attacks".
"Keeping hundreds of stores open longer in a key trading period would have been fiscally sound but completely against our commitment to putting our team and customers first," he added.
"We strongly believe that in the longer term this demographic will play a key role in retail as the majority are not of the JobKeeper generation and are more likely to return to spending as and when the virus recedes."
Many of the stores across the state have been temporarily closed due to stage three restrictions - Mosaic Brands was one of the first companies to close in the first wave of the virus in March.
In Ballarat, Mosaic has several stores in major shopping centres, including a Rivers outlet at Central Square.
It's not known at this time if any Ballarat stores will be affected by potential closures - it's understood the company has not yet determined locations yet.
Rivers grew out of Paddle Bros, a shoe manufacturer which moved to Ballarat after World War 2 - a large factory was opened in Sebastopol in 1960.
The footwear and clothing retailer was renamed Rivers in 1979, undergoing several changes before being bought by larger clothing groups, and eventually coming under the Mosaic Brands umbrella.
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Several other retailers in Ballarat have been forced to close or limit trading as restrictions continue, however some have been able to reopen safely.
Central Square and Stockland declined to comment.
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