A big shareholder in the Ann Taylor chain is ratcheting up pressure on its parent company to put it up for sale.

Engine Capital LP and its partner Red Alder LLC sent a letter Monday to the New York company urging the board to explore alternatives that could include a sale. Engine Capital believes the company, which also owns Loft stores, is an "an incredibly suitable candidate" for private equity, particularly given the advantageous financial conditions right now.

"It is uncertain how long the credit markets will remain favorable, and we therefore encourage the (board) to act with a sense of urgency so that this significant opportunity does not slip away," the letter stated.

Engine Capital and Red Alder, which control more than 1 percent of Ann's shares, said Monday that after holding private discussions over the past couple weeks, they have decided to take their campaign public.

With new private equity involved, Engine Capital sees potential for aggressive cost cuts and a rapid global expansion of the brand.

Earlier this year another private equity firm, Golden Gate Capital, revealed a 9.5 percent stake, though it has not pushed for a sale and it has called the company "well-managed."

The company did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press early Monday.

Ann Inc. has a market value of more than $1.7 billion. Shares have risen more than 9 percent in the past year.