In Bankruptcy, Brooks Brothers Explores Sale, Closes 50+ Stores

  • July 8, 2020 at 3:14 PM EDT
  • By Marie Griffin
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Iconic apparel retailer Brooks Brothers has joined the ranks of retailers whose struggling businesses were tipped into Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the pandemic. The private company, owned by CEO Claudio Del Vecchio, has been on the sales block for the past year, and “the effort to find a buyer will continue with an auction during the bankruptcy,” according to a statement from the company cited by Bloomberg.

Brooks Brothers had been valued at $300 million to $350 million by potential investors before the pandemic, according to the New York Times. The retailer said it is “critical that any potential buyer aligns with our core values, culture, and ambitions” in an email to the newspaper.

“Over the past year, Brooks Brothers’ board, leadership team, and financial and legal advisors have been evaluating various strategic options to position the company for future success, including a potential sale of the business,” a spokesperson for the retailer told CNBC. “During this strategic review, Covid-19 became immensely disruptive and took a toll on our business.”

Brooks Brothers already has decided to close approximately one-fifth of its roughly 250 locations in North America. Eight have already been permanently shuttered, according to Business Insider. Those stores were located in Darien and Westport, Conn.; 901 Broadway in New York City; Greenvale, N.Y.; Palm Beach, Fla.; Washington, D.C.; Tucson, Ariz., and Boston.

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Approximately 250 Brooks Brothers stores are located outside the U.S. and Canada.

Brooks Brothers had stood out among U.S. retailers because the company had continued to do some of its manufacturing in the U.S., at factories in Long Island City, N.Y.; Haverhill, Mass. and Garland, N.C., but these facilities were slated to shut down this summer.

In a separate story, the New York Times reported that Brooks Brothers filed Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notices saying that approximately 700 people would be laid off, but it also said it was trying to find buyers for the factories. In an interview with the Times, Del Vecchio said he regretted that the facilities might have to close permanently, but he added that they “never made money for us, and at this moment all resources need to be maintained and saved to make sure we can come out on the other side of the crisis.”

Even though it had put itself on the block, Brooks Brothers has been investing in modern technologies that would allow it to move forward in the 21st century.

Appearing at Retail TouchPointsRetail Innovation Conference in 2019, CIO Todd Treonze said the company was implementing “buy anything, get it anywhere (BAGA)” fulfillment — a long-time aspiration for omnichannel retailers that has yet to be realized by most. “From a customer experience perspective, being able to provide complete visibility both online and in-store to all that inventory was a big win for us,” he said.

Brooks Brothers also has deployed the Concierge mobile application for its retail store associates, bridging the online-offline divide with mobile devices that enable personalized engagements in the stores. The application powers store associates with mobile POS, clienteling, buy online/pick up in-store (BOPIS) and store-to-door fulfillment and endless aisle capabilities.

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