Bargain chain Century 21 to shut down after nearly 60 years

NEW YORK (AP) — Century 21 Stores – a destination for bargain hunters looking for fat deals on designer dresses and shoes, cosmetics and housewares for nearly 60 years – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and is winding down its business, shutting 13 stores across New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Century 21 joins more than two dozen retailers who filed for bankruptcy since the pandemic, which forced non-essential stores to temporarily close.

In a statement, the New York-based company said the decision followed non-payment by the company’s insurance providers of approximately USD175 million due under policies put in place to protect against losses stemming from business interruption. Insurance money helped it re-build its flagship store, a magnet for locals and tourists in downtown Manhattan after it was damaged by the 9/11 attacks, the company said.

“We now have no viable alternative but to begin the closure of our beloved family business because our insurers, to whom we paid significant premiums every year for protection against unforeseen circumstances like we are experiencing today, turned their backs on us at this most critical time,” said Century 21 co-CEO Raymond Gindi in a statement.

Gindi said if Century 21 received “any meaningful portion” of the insurance proceeds, it would have been able “to save thousands of jobs and weather the storm in hopes of another incredible recovery”.

The company said it is removing to the bankruptcy court a lawsuit pending in the Supreme Court of the State of New York against several of its insurance providers based on their failure to compensate the company for its losses under the policies. The company is requesting that the bankruptcy court expedite the adjudication of the suit for the benefit of its stakeholders.

Century 21 said it is starting going-out-of business sales at its stores and online.

File photo shows people shopping at the Century 21 Department Store in Philadelphia. PHOTO: AP