In April, Lord & Taylor will be back in business, online only, to be known as "America's Collective Store," according to an emailed press release Thursday from new owner The Saadia Group.
The investment firm won the intellectual property of the iconic department store and its newish owner, rental site Le Tote, at an October bankruptcy auction with a bid of $12 million. (The Saadia Group didn't share its plans for Le Tote.)
The firm last year also bought RTW Retailwinds out of bankruptcy for $40 million. Talent from that operation, (which includes New York & Co. and Fashion to Figure), and Saadia's manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing expertise are being leveraged for the Lord & Taylor comeback, according to Nick Kaplan, president of Fashion to Figure and New York & Co.
The lights went out at Lord & Taylor last year after the pandemic prevented owner Le Tote from realizing its plans for what could have been a win-win partnership.
Now, The Saadia Group aims to turn them back on. The pandemic may have also provided some opportunity for the iconic retailer's new management, according to Kaplan, who once worked at Saks, founded Fashion to Figure and is a great-grandson of Lane Bryant.
"We are thinking about what exactly it is experientially that we can offer this customer, we really want to do it right as a platform for the future," Kaplan said by phone. "There are learnings to be had from New York and Co. and Fashion to Figure with some of the collaborative and celebrity driven things they do — the brand elements of those companies and how they develop products. And we now have those resources inside of our total company."
Loyal fans were likely disappointed to see Lord & Taylor's remaining physical locations shut down for good last year after months of a fruitless search for a buyer. Kaplan said that physical stores may be in its future but that the focus now is to connect with those customers online.
The company has "a ton of data that will serve us well," Kaplan said.
It's been a long road for Lord & Taylor, which was founded in 1826 and enjoyed a heyday in the mid-20th century, becoming known for dresses and, to some extent, men's formal wear. It was felled by a series of unmet challenges, including the casualization of fashion, the decline of the middle class and onetime owner Hudson's Bay Co.'s general neglect. Le Tote in 2019 plunked down $75 million to buy the iconic department store from HBC, which had leveraged the retailer for its real estate but didn't do much about its falling sales. The idea was for Le Tote to bring new customers and new ways of retailing to the nearly 200-year-old Lord & Taylor, while the retailer's 45 spiffy locations would provide the site with brick and mortar operations.
Lord & Taylor's timing might work out this time around. After a year of a pandemic that closed stores or left consumers leery of shopping indoors, more people than ever have become used to buy most things, if not everything, online. And after a year of wearing mostly, if not only, comfortable clothing, many analysts expect pent-up demand for dressing up as the pandemic winds down.
"Lord & Taylor has a deep retail history that spans 195 years, and a tradition of innovation and countless fashion firsts," Jack Saadia, principal and co-founder of The Saadia Group, said in a statement. "We are excited to build the future of the brand, expand the loyal community, and show the world what’s next."