Bon-Ton Stores said late Sunday it had voluntarily sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in federal court in Delaware and may sell itself as the chain looks to become viable again in a tough environment for department stores.

The Milwaukee-based retailer, whose chains include namesake stores as well as Carson's, Elder-Beerman, Herberger's and Younkers, has been struggling for years with declining sales amid challenged traffic at the malls it occupies, an assortment redundant with what rivals sell, and difficulty adapting to the emergence of e-commerce.

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