NEW YORK (AP) — The Rockport Group will sell its assets to private equity group Charlesbank under a bankruptcy plan as the shoemaker struggles to compete in a tougher retail market.

The Newton, Massachusetts-based company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Delaware. Charlesbank will serve as the "stalking horse bidder" in a court-supervised sale process. The move allows the company to accept other buyout offers.

Rockport says it will maintain operations through the sale process, but the company is seeking court authorization to close retail stores that are not acquired by Charlesbank or a potential other buyer. It plans to focus on its wholesale, independent and e-commerce sales.

Rockport was founded in 1971 as The Rockport Co. and eventually became part of Adidas before being sold again.