The year 2020 was a tumultuous one, marked by a series of unfortunate events that shook the world. It began with the tragic loss of NBA star Kobe Bryant, followed by the relentless onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic and the widespread civil unrest ignited by the murder of George Floyd. As the pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy, traditional retailers found themselves in dire straits.
People turned to online shopping giants like Amazon, utilizing delivery services provided by the United States Post Office or UPS. Even longstanding institutions, as old as the nation itself, faced an uphill battle. One such institution was Lord & Taylor, America’s oldest department store chain, which had thrived for almost two centuries.
Despite being acquired by a French company just the year before, the economic downturn proved too challenging. The company made the difficult decision to close all of its 38 stores through a desperate liquidation sale.
This move followed Lord & Taylor’s earlier Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing when they had initially chosen to keep fourteen locations operational. The iconic retailer had first opened its doors in Manhattan in 1824, pioneering the concept of the department store in the United States. However, changing times and ownership led to its eventual downfall. In a statement, Ed Kremer, Le Tote’s chief restructuring officer, explained that while they were exploring various opportunities, liquidating the remaining stores was deemed necessary to maximize inventory value while considering the company’s brand options.
Even before the pandemic, Lord & Taylor had been in the midst of significant changes. They had sold their historic Fifth Avenue store to a French buyer after a century of ownership. Ironically, the building was subsequently acquired by Amazon for a new Manhattan office space. Lord & Taylor is currently in the midst of its going-out-of-business sales, liquidating everything from merchandise to fixtures, equipment, and furniture.
Unfortunately, the economic fallout from the pandemic has led to the closure of numerous businesses, including iconic names like Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Stage Stores, Ann Taylor, and Lane Bryant. Brooks Brothers, a two-century-old institution that had dressed numerous U.S. presidents, shared the same fate as its long-time rival, Barneys New York, which declared bankruptcy the previous year.
Other notable retailers, such as The Paper Store, Inc., Sur La Table, Inc., Lucky Brand, LLC, and Ascena Retail Group, Inc. (owner of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank), also sought bankruptcy protection.
As the economic upheaval continues to reshape the American retail landscape, the nation is left to wonder how and when it will recover, and who will fill the vacancies left by these historical businesses that have been part of the fabric of American life for generations.