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When Sears filed for bankruptcy protection Monday, it vindicated months of planning by vendors ranging from Levi's to underwear giant HanesBrands and myriad private label manufacturers.

Once America's largest retailer and the first "everything store," Sears has long struggled to compete with the rise of Walmart and Amazon. But as the department store headed down the path toward bankruptcy for years, clothing companies took key precautions to shield themselves. Many stopped sending shipments to the store months before the bankruptcy filing, which listed more than $10 billion in debts, and demanded cash upon delivery instead of the standard 20- to 30-day payment period.

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