Retail Resurrects: Lord & Taylor Relaunching E-commerce

David Moin
·5 min read

Lord & Taylor will reemerge in April as a website only under its new ownership, in yet another revival of a liquidated retailer.

Back in October, Saadia Group LLC bought Lord & Taylor and its parent company Le Tote for $12 million, through a bankruptcy auction. Le Tote and Lord & Taylor, impacted by the pandemic, went bankrupt in August 2020 and all the Lord & Taylor stores were liquidated by the end of February 2021.

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“Lord & Taylor has a deep retail history that spans 195 years, and a tradition of innovation and countless fashion firsts,” said Jack Saadia, principal and cofounder of the Saadia Group. “We are excited to build the future of the brand, expand the loyal community, and show the world what’s next.”

Saadia said he’s pulled together a “full team” of 40 including merchants, IT workers, operations and finance executives for Lord & Taylor. “We picked up people from the old company and from Bloomingdale’s, Century 21 and Saks Fifth Avenue,” Saadia said. “We are interviewing for a president.”

He said the Lord & Taylor e-commerce website will launch in mid-April, initially selling men’s and women’s fashion, beauty, skin care, fragrances and home. He declined to specify any brands. In the second quarter of 2021, children’s wear, fashion accessories and footwear will be added to the offering.

Lord & Taylor was a struggling company in its later years, bogged down by ownership and management changes, insufficient investment to modernize the business and a reputation of being “your grandma’s store.”

But Saadia said, “The e-commerce was not losing money. It was a great business, with a few hundred million in sales. The stores component was draining the business.”

He said he wasn’t averse to reopening Lord & Taylor stores. “We have been studying how to recreate a new brick-and-mortar store, a smaller footprint, not 100,000 or 200,000 square feet.” It wouldn’t be until a year or two from now that a Lord & Taylor store could open, he said, most likely in a large urban area on the East Coast, where the store performed best, such as in New York City or on Long Island. Some top-performing L&T stores were in Manhasset, Garden City and Eastchester, N.Y.

A month before the LeTote/Lord & Taylor deal, the Saadia Group bought the e-commerce business of RTW Retailwinds Inc., which includes New York & Co. and Fashion to Figure, which specializes in large sizes. RTW Retailwinds also went bankrupt and liquidated its New York & Co. and Fashion to Figure stores, though Saadia Group has kept the New York & Co. and Fashion to Figure e-commerce operating.

“These are businesses that were weighed down by legacy leases and underperforming stores,” he said.

The Saadia Group invests in fashion brands and is involved in the sourcing, manufacturing and wholesaling of a variety of merchandise categories, primarily apparel, accessories, footwear, home textiles and home decor.

Additionally, through its Saadia Direct division, the company operates nyandcompany.com; fashiontofigure.com; letote.com; nyandcompanycloset.com; fashiontofigurecloset.com; vintagefoundryco.com; thechichomestore.com; xrayjeans.com, and hybridgegreenlabel.com.

The company has maintained a low profile, though that’s changing with its recent acquisitions and plans.

Saadia’s vision is to create what he calls the Collective Store, essentially a portfolio of retailers that could collaborate in several ways and create synergies.

“Our focus today is get the foundation set and build up again and return these iconic brands back to their splendor,” said Nick Kaplan, president of Fashion to Figure and an adviser to Saadia.

Lord & Taylor, founded in 1826 as America’s first department store, is the latest in what’s been a string of retail revivals recently. Retail brands that shut down due to bankruptcies or the pandemic are being swooped up and resurrected as direct-to-consumer websites because of the seismic shift by consumers toward shopping online more often, and less often in malls and brick-and-mortar stores. It’s also quicker and less costly to launch a website than to open a store, though not necessarily as profitable. Generally, the best formula for success in retailing is to become multichannel.

Dressbarn, which liquidated in 2019 and was purchased by Retail E-commerce Ventures (REV) is now operating as a website. REV has quickly compiled a portfolio of retail nameplates that went bankrupt due to the pandemic or other reasons. The portfolio includes Modell’s, Linens n Things, Stein Mart, Pier 1 and Radio Shack, which have all been relaunched as website-only operations.

Century 21 Department Stores is coming back, after going bankrupt last year and liquidating all of its stores. During the bankruptcy process, the Gindi family, which owned, operated and founded the famous off-price chain, bought back the intellectual property in November for $9 million, together with a silent partner. Its first step will be to open a 100,000-square-foot store in Busan, South Korea in late summer of 2021. After Korea, the next move could be to restart e-commerce, with a social media strategy implemented in the meantime.

Barneys New York completed its liquidation last year and its intellectual property was bought by Authentic Brands Group which licensed the Barneys name to Saks Fifth Avenue. The Saks flagship in Manhattan operates a Barneys at Saks department, and there is a Barneys at Saks freestanding store operating in Greenwich, Conn.

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