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UPDATE 1-Apparel chain Bebe Stores to explore strategic alternatives

(Adds background; Updates shares)

March 22 Contemporary women's retailer Bebe Stores Inc said it is exploring strategic alternatives following four years of losses, sending the shares of the company up about 16 percent in extended trading on Wednesday.

Apparel retailers including Gap Inc and Victoria's Secret owner L Brands Inc have been facing lackluster demand as they try to cope with stiff competition from Amazon.com Inc and fast-fashion retailers such as H&M and Zara.

The retailers have also been victim to a rapid change in consumer tastes as shoppers increasingly spend on travel and big-ticket home improvement items and less on apparel and accessories.

Bebe Stores, which has a market cap of about $29 million, said it has retained B. Riley & Co as its financial adviser.

The Brisbane, California-based company had said in 2014 that it was exploring a potential sale as a reduction in store traffic hit demand for its apparel and accessories. (reut.rs/2mtObGE)

The company, known for its formfitting dresses and other apparel, also engaged a real estate adviser to help decide on options related to its lease holdings.

Bebe is planning to shut stores and seek a turnaround as an online brand to avoid filing for bankruptcy, Bloomberg had reported on Tuesday, citing people familiar with the situation. (bloom.bg/2n4oCJi)

The company's stock has lost about 89 percent of its value in the last two years. (Reporting by Gayathree Ganesan in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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