Lord & Taylor flagship store locks its doors forever

|    Verena Dobnik    |

NEW YORK (AP) — After 104 years, Lord & Taylor’s flagship store on Fifth Avenue locked its doors forever.

The venerable department store famed for its animated holiday windows closed down on Wednesday afternoon, ending a blowout sale that left whole floors empty. By the end, clothes that once sold for as much as USD100 were going for USD5.99, and USD600 designer shoes for USD99.

The 11-storey building has been sold to the WeWork space-leasing company for more than USD850 million.

Forty-five other, smaller Lord & Taylor stores remain open, mostly on the East Coast. In addition, Lord & Taylor-branded merchandise is being sold online through the Walmart website.

Patty Conte said the Fifth Avenue location was her favourite store and she came on Wednesday “to do a last walkthrough”. She purchased some women’s shoes under a “buy one, get one free” offer, for a total of USD25 plus tax.

For her, shopping online is not an option “because it’s important to feel the fabric and to try things on”.

The demise of the Fifth Avenue store reflects a shifting economy in which brick-and-mortar retail has taken a hit from online sales.

Workers scrape a sign off a display window outside Lord & Taylor’s flagship Fifth Avenue store after it closed for good mid-afternoon on January 2 in New York. – AP

Hudson’s Bay Co, the Canadian corporate behemoth that has owned the brand since 2012, said it was closing the flagship and some of its other stores due to an “increasing focus on its digital opportunity and commitment to improving profitability”.

Founded in 1826 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Lord & Taylor was one of the nation’s first big department stores, run by two English-born cousins, Samuel Lord and George Washington Taylor. The store occupied several locations before 1914, when it moved into the building that fills a whole Manhattan block on Fifth Avenue at 38th Street.

Alice Tawil paid a last visit — for the memories.

“I’ve come here many times, I’ve purchased many dresses, for family occasions, for weddings, for parties, engagements, and I really did very well here,” she said. “It’s sad. … It’s very barren; only the first floor was open.”

Others were effusive — over a bargain bonanza of goods they brought home. One woman visited the store 21 times since the clearance sale started in November, buying dozens of dresses, plus furs, shoes, furniture, crystal, tables and other items.

The store was scheduled to close at 3pm, when customers were turned away. But the last door wasn’t locked until 3.22pm, giving those inside some extra minutes to exit.

When Conte walked out, she declared this wasn’t going to be her last trip to Lord & Taylor.

“I live in West Hartford, and there’s another one there,” she said.