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America’s Oldest Department Store Is Closing All Its Stores After 200 Years

In a year marked by the untimely death of NBA star Kobe Bryant, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, and the civil unrest following the murder of George Floyd, 2020 proved to be a tumultuous one for the United States. As the economy struggled to cope with the pandemic’s impact, traditional retailers faced a daunting challenge as consumers increasingly turned to online shopping platforms like Amazon. Among these retailers is Lord & Taylor, America’s oldest department store chain, which is now preparing to close all of its stores after nearly two centuries in business.

The Fall of a Retail Icon

Due to the economic hardships imposed by the pandemic, Lord & Taylor, which was sold to a French company last year, is set to shutter all 38 of its stores in a desperate liquidation sale. This marks a significant shift from its earlier decision when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, opting to keep fourteen locations operational.

Lord & Taylor’s illustrious history dates back to 1824 when it opened its doors in Manhattan as a dry goods store, pioneering the concept of the department store in the United States. The store continued to innovate for decades until its acquisition by the French clothing company, Le Tote Inc., last year.

Both Lord & Taylor and Le Tote Inc. filed for bankruptcy in the Eastern Court of Virginia in August 2020, signaling their struggle to adapt to the changing retail landscape.

A Changing Landscape

Even before the pandemic struck, Lord & Taylor was making strategic moves. They sold their iconic Fifth Avenue store to the French, ending their century-old ownership. The building was subsequently acquired by Amazon, reflecting the tech giant’s expansion into Manhattan’s office space market.

Currently, Lord & Taylor is holding going-out-of-business sales, offering everything for sale, including fixtures, equipment, and furniture. The economic fallout from the pandemic has not spared other long-standing retailers either. Companies like Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Stage Stores, Ann Taylor, and Lane Bryant have all had to drastically alter their operations or cease them altogether.

Brooks Brothers, a two-hundred-year-old company known for dressing numerous U.S. presidents, also succumbed to these economic pressures. Its long-time rival, Barneys New York, had already declared bankruptcy the previous year. In addition to these venerable institutions, several other notable retailers, including 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), have sought bankruptcy protection.

As the economic collapse continues to impact historical businesses that have operated for nearly as long as America has existed, it remains uncertain how the economy will recover and who will fill the vacancies left behind.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Lord & Taylor closing all its stores? Lord & Taylor is closing all its stores due to the economic challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company made the difficult decision to liquidate its remaining stores.

When did Lord & Taylor first open its doors? Lord & Taylor first opened its doors in 1824 in Manhattan. It was a pioneer as the first department store in the United States.

Who purchased Lord & Taylor last year? Lord & Taylor was purchased by the French clothing company, Le Tote Inc., in the year preceding its bankruptcy filing.

Are other historic retailers also facing financial difficulties? Yes, several historic retailers like Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, and J.C. Penney have faced financial challenges and have had to restructure or close stores due to the economic impact of the pandemic.

What is the future of these historic retailers? The future of historic retailers is uncertain. The economic impact of the pandemic has forced many of them to adapt or close, and their long-term survival will depend on various factors, including changing consumer preferences and economic conditions.

Credit: Kuluckada

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