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is restructuring its Northern Group operation to position the division for sale, and the athletic goods retailer will close its Northern Reflections stores in the U.S.

Venator, which is based in New York, will close 323 Northern Reflections stores nationwide, affecting 700 full-time and 2,300 part-time workers. The retailer will also cut its Northern Group corporate staff to 173 from 276.

The company is considering reopening roughly 30 of the stores as one of Venator Group's athletic formats. The company will hold liquidation sales immediately and hopes to close the stores by the end of the fiscal second quarter.

After it closes the U.S. stores, the Northern Group will consist of 195 Northern Reflections and Northern Traditions stores, 112 Northern Getaway stores and 63 Northern Elements stores in Canada.

Venator recorded a $296 million after-tax charge in the fourth quarter as a result of the anticipated costs to divest the Northern Group.

Shares of Venator gained 66 cents, or 5.1%, to $13.71 in recent

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