Lord And Taylor Becomes Latest Fashion Casualty

Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the so-called retail apocalypse might be reaching its monstrous peak with newly announced closures and bankruptcies happening weekly—the latest blow to the retail scene: America’s oldest surviving department store Lord and Taylor. On Sunday, brand owner Le Tote declared that they were filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with many of its 38 surviving Lord and Taylor stores closing immediately.

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Founded in 1826 by English Immigrants, Lord and Taylor quickly became a New York mainstay in the 19th century with their iconic flagship 5th Avenue store and other locations throughout the east coast.  They specialize in middle range clothing of all types and also sell their own labels in stores. In its heyday, Lord and Taylor remained a popular suburban and urban shopping destination up and down the east coast.

However, in recent years, the brand has struggled due to Americans’ declining interest in department store shopping, their dependence on online shopping, and the difficult position of being a middle price range store that isn’t branded as luxury such as Saks or discount such as Macy’s. They made headlines last year when WeWork bought out the famous flagship, forever changing the landscape of 5th Avenue and severely demising the brand and its image. Former owner Hudson Bay Company which owes the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue then sold the brand’s name and inventory to Le Tote, a San Francesco start-up, but kept ownership of store buildings and rent.

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Many iconic American brands such as J Crew and Brooks Brothers have also recently declared chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the pandemic-induced slow economy and look to hopefully restructure their labels and names in different formats than the brick and mortar mall store. Many, including, Lord Taylor, have been household names for centuries, surviving depressions and world wars, so the optimist in me has high hopes that these names can live on in other faucets, potentially remaking the landscape of fashion retail.

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With Sunday’s announcement, Lord and Taylor became the third major US department store to declare bankruptcy after Neiman Marcus and J.C Penny’s sought protection earlier this Spring. This week, closing Lord and Taylors that are open to in-person shopping will start clearance sales to reduce overstock and inventory, a problem many retailers still face because of the economic shutdown.

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