Sadly, America’s Oldest Department Store Is Going Out of Business

by Chris Haney
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Lord & Taylor, the oldest department store chain in the U.S., is officially going out of business after filing for bankruptcy protection last month.

The clothing retailer was already in serious trouble as of last year. The company experienced steady sales declines, and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) had turned negative.

The department store chain eventually sold for $100 million last year to Le Tote. The online San Francisco company that rents clothing bought the retailer from Lord & Taylor’s Canadian parent company, Hudson’s Bay Co.

Last month, Le Tote announced it would file for bankruptcy protection and close 19 stores in an attempt to “maximize the value of its business.” But, Le Tote said it will now permanently close its remaining 38 stores and shut down its website. The retailer is currently holding going-out-of-business sales in stores and online.

The History of America’s Oldest Department Store

In 1826, English immigrants Samuel Lord and George Washington Taylor founded a dry goods store in New York City. The retail chain was America’s first department store when it was established on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The partners had a clear vision to win customers over by satisfying their desires, and making shopping a pleasant experience. The formula proved a success, spurring continued growth and expansion. Over the course of eight decades, the store would re-locate no less than six times. It opened its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in 1914.

The company was only six years away from celebrating its 200-year anniversary.

Evolution of Retail Shopping

Lord & Taylor has struggled for years as buyers shopping online increased. However, the pandemic changed the way many people shopped entirely. Furthermore, it accelerated the shift to online buying even more which benefited larger retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart.

Since the spread of COVID-19 began in the U.S., several other clothing retailers have gone bankrupt as well. For instance, Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, and J.C. Penney have each filed for bankruptcy protection.

Yet, Lord & Taylor was already on the decline before the pandemic. Last year, it closed its century old 11-story flagship store on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Amazon has taken over the space and is turning the building into an office for its technology workers.

[H/T Boston Globe]

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