The unprecedented year of 2020 began with the tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and quickly spiraled into chaos with the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic and the civil unrest in response to George Floyd’s murder. As the economy floundered amidst the pandemic, traditional retailers, some dating back to the birth of America itself, struggled to stay afloat, while e-commerce giants like Amazon thrived, leaning on the United States Post Office and UPS for deliveries.
In a heartbreaking end to a historic legacy, America’s oldest department store chain, Lord & Taylor, is now set to shutter all its stores after nearly 200 years of operation. The economic devastation caused by the pandemic has crippled this iconic American business, which had recently been sold to French company Le Tote Inc. In a desperate attempt to salvage what they can, all 38 stores will be closed in a massive liquidation sale. This is a significant shift from their initial Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, in which they planned to keep 14 locations open.
Back in 1824, Lord & Taylor first opened its doors in Manhattan as a dry goods store, becoming the first-ever department store in the United States. Over the years, the company continued to innovate and adapt, maintaining its prominence until it was eventually sold to French clothing company Le Tote Inc. in 2019.
Both Lord & Taylor and its new parent company, Le Tote Inc., filed for bankruptcy in the Eastern Court of Virginia in August 2020. Ed Kremer, Le Tote’s Chief Restructuring Officer, said in a statement, “While we are still entertaining various opportunities, we believe it is prudent to simultaneously put the remainder of the stores into liquidation to maximize the value of inventory for the estate while pursuing options for the Company’s brands.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic shook the world to its core, Lord & Taylor sought to revitalize its business. The company sold its iconic Fifth Avenue store to the French, which it had owned for over a century. WeWork, the struggling coworking company, acquired the building, but it has since been bought by Amazon to serve as a new Manhattan office space.
Lord & Taylor is currently in the midst of its going-out-of-business sales. Everything is on the chopping block, including fixtures, equipment, and furniture.
The economic turmoil resulting from the coronavirus pandemic has forced numerous businesses to close their doors for good. Among them are Brooks Brothers, J. Crew, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Stage Stores, Ann Taylor, and Lane Bryant, all of which will no longer operate as they once did.
Brooks Brothers, another 200-year-old company, has dressed most United States presidents. Its long-time rival, Barneys New York, filed for bankruptcy just last year.
Other well-known retailers that have sought bankruptcy protection include The Paper Store, Inc., Sur La Table, Inc., Lucky Brand, LLC, and Ascena Retail Group, Inc., the parent company of Men’s Warehouse and Jos A. Bank.
As the economic collapse obliterates the American economy, dismantling historic businesses that have existed nearly as long as the nation itself, the question remains: How will the economy recover, and who will fill the void left by these once-mighty retail giants?