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.

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