The iconic apparel retail chain’s new owner is hoping to attract new, younger customers. Lord & Taylor’s past few years were turbulent: fashion startup Le Tote acquired Lord & Taylor in 2019 for $71 million, then the brands filed for bankruptcy in August 2020 and were acquired by The Saadia Group in October 2020 for $12 million.

Apparel department store Lord & Taylor LLC emerged from bankruptcy last week as an online-only retailer.

The ecommerce site sells “classic favorites,” along with emerging brands and private-label brands, according to a release announcing the relaunch. Besides apparel merchandise, Lord & Taylor will also sell “first-class services and exciting events,” a spokesperson says without providing specifics. Without stores, Lord & Taylor can adapt quickly to shoppers’ wants and needs, the spokesperson says.

“The Lord & Taylor brand has a powerful legacy cultivated over 195 years, and we want to continue telling its story with a new digital approach,” the spokesperson says.

“We are excited to build upon Lord & Taylor’s legacy and carry the brand into a new age, with a sharp customer-centric focus, best-in-class digital platform and fresh merchandise assortment to excite and delight our shoppers,” the spokesperson says.

The Saadia Group, Lord & Taylor’s parent company, is hoping to tap into consumers who have previously shopped with Lord & Taylor but is focusing on acquiring younger shoppers, the company says.

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The Saadia Group owns several apparel merchants, including New York & Co, Vintage Foundry Co, X- Ray jeans, Fashion to Figure and Olivia Miller Shoes. With its portfolio, The Saadia Group brings experience in digital marketing, sourcing, marketing and fulfillment, which will help Lord & Taylor, the spokesperson says.

The iconic department store follows in the footsteps of several other apparel retail chains that have filed for bankruptcy and then re-emerged as online-only brands, including The Limited and New York & Co Inc. (No. 200 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000 Database)

Prior to The Saadia Group, Lord & Taylor’s past few years were turbulent:

  • In 2019, fashion start-up Le Tote Inc. (No. 975) bought the rights to Lord & Taylor’s stores, brand and ecommerce site from Saks Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay Co. (No. 30) for $71 million.
  • In August 2020, Le Tote filed for Chapter 11 along with Lord & Taylor.
  • A few weeks later, Lord & Taylor announced it would close all of its 38 stores.
  • In October 2020, The Saadia Group LLC announced it would acquire Lord & Taylor for $12 million and would continue to operate the business as an online-only business, as it is doing today. With the acquisition, The Saadia Group now owns Le Tote, which has continued to operate throughout this process.

Relaunching an apparel brand during the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic upended retail and changed shopper behavior dramatically. For example, the pandemic spurred more consumers to shop online, as many non-essential stores closed and consumers wanted to avoid public, indoor places. But it also pushed many already-troubled retailers over the edge and into bankruptcy.

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Overall, U.S. ecommerce sales grew 32.4% year over year in 2020, up from just a 15.1% year-over-year growth rate in 2019, according to U.S. Department of Commerce retail data.

But, the pandemic impacted each category’s online sales differently. Collectively, the leading Top 1000 online retailers in North America grew online sales 45.8%, according to new research from Digital Commerce 360. Apparel was not one of the fastest-growing categories within the Top 1000, as consumers had fewer events and occasions they needed apparel for during the year. Top 1000 online apparel merchants collectively grew sales 25.9% year over year. While the apparel category did not grow as fast as the whole Top 1000, with a 25.9% collective online growth rate, the category grew faster in 2020 than it did in 2019, with a 13.7% collective growth rate.

Despite the pandemic, Lord & Taylor is hopeful that its future is bright and the pandemic won’t hinder its relaunch, the spokesperson says.

“It could not be a better time. People have adapted more to shop online,” the spokesperson says. “We’re listening to our customers and their demand for the brand and familiarity. Lord & Taylor has been a staple for many years, and we want to provide our customers with the brands they love while also introducing them to new brands and assortments.”

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