Lord & Taylor President Vanessa LeFebvre announced via LinkedIn on Thursday that she is leaving. She arrived from Stitch Fix in May 2018 as president to the Hudson's Bay Co.-owned banner, where she had begun her retail career years before.
Hudson's Bay itself made no mention of her departure when it reported its first-quarter results on Thursday. Retail sales (revenue minus credit card sales) edged down to 2.1 billion Canadian dollars ($1.57 billion in Thursday's exchange) from C$2.2 billion in the year-ago quarter. Overall comp sales rose 0.3%, excluding now-shuttered Home Outfitters and Lord & Taylor, which is "undergoing a review of strategic alternatives," according to a company press release.
The company swung into the black in the quarter thanks to C$817 million from its sale of the Lord & Taylor New York City flagship, with net income of C$275 million, compared to last year's C$398 million loss. By banner in the quarter, store comps rose 2.4% at Saks Fifth Avenue, fell 4.3% at Hudson's Bay and rose 4.4% at off-price Saks Off 5th, the company said.
LeFebvre's departure is the latest blow to Lord & Taylor, a once iconic American department store that for years catered to stylish middle class women in cities and suburbs.
But its best days are behind it. The banner, which launched HBC Governor Richard Baker's retail career when he acquired it in 2006, has been left to dangle. Its Canadian parent, in addition to selling off its Italianate flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York this year, has shuttered other locations as well, with plans for more. It also aims to sell the banner off entirely. The banner has a fleet of 45 stores, mostly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic U.S.
"We will begin liquidation in four additional stores shortly, two of which are Lord & Taylor outlets," HBC CFO Ed Record told analysts, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "And we expect to close all four in the third quarter."
Except for selling off key real estate — a forte of Baker, who comes from the real estate investment world — the company hasn't done much for Lord & Taylor. The unit in 2017 tied up with Walmart for e-commerce sales, a partnership that seemed at odds with its previous position as a fashion destination.
Few observers believe there will be much interest in acquiring Lord & Taylor, at least not as a functioning department store. "I don't think you're going to see any takers," retail analyst and consultant Sanford Stein, author of "Retail Schmetail," told Retail Dive in an interview last month. "Who's going to pick it up? There's no retailer in business that would want it. At best you might see a private equity play that will pick it up and milk it dry."
As it looks to unload Lord & Taylor, HBC could itself go private, after a group that includes Baker and private equity firms submitted a buyout bid for the company this week.