The Golden Flush

Today the New York Times has a lengthy feature on the abandoned Brooks Brothers warehouse we posted about earlier this week, along with a summary of the present situation of the company. The Times writes:

The office attire segment of retailing as a whole was battered last year as many Americans worked remotely, ditching entire portions of their closets. J. Crew and the owners of Ann Taylor and Men’s Wearhouse also filed for bankruptcy, while sales nose-dived at chains like Banana Republic. Temporary store closures added to the distress, along with the cancellations of special occasions like proms, graduations, weddings and other events.

All that led up to Brooks Brothers’ bankruptcy filing in July, one of the most significant retail collapses of 2020. Brooks Brothers had dressed all but four U.S. presidents at the time of its filing, and prided itself on its American factories, which were also forced to close.

But investors saw value in the brand, and the retailer was quickly purchased for $325 million by Simon Property Group, the biggest U.S. mall operator, and Authentic Brands Group, a licensing firm.

The firms have been buying up a string of bankrupt mall retailers through a joint venture called the SPARC Group, including Lucky Brand denim and Forever 21, leveraging the combination of Authentic Brands’ expertise in licensing famous brand names in various lucrative and creative (and some say equity-destructive) ways and Simon’s real estate portfolio.

At the time of the Brooks Brothers purchase, SPARC committed to keep operating at least 125 Brooks Brothers retail locations, compared with 424 retail and outlet stores globally before the pandemic.

As for what’s in the warehouse:

“They used it for all of their store fixtures, so tables, props, fishing poles, canoes, everything you would see that would go in and out of a store to decorate it,” Mr. LaBonte said. “There’s probably 20,000 square feet of Christmas trees — everything except the actual merchandise.”

“I’ve been doing this for seven years and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Rick McDonald Jr., the owner of EastSide Junk, which provided the $243,000 quote to the couple. “They left an astronomical amount of stuff.”

In related news on this Good Friday, let us remember the final words of Jesus on the cross: “It is finished.”

Start planning something elegant and traditional to wear for Easter. It will, shall we say, lift your spirits. — CC

10 Comments on "The Golden Flush"

  1. Too Much Johnson | April 2, 2021 at 3:16 pm |

    Full circle back to what will essentially be department stores as the malls themselves will now own their “retail tenants” as brands?

    I can’t say that I would have ever predicted such a development as logical as it is in some ways…

  2. Roger Sack | April 2, 2021 at 3:18 pm |

    According to a salesman at my local BB in PaloAlto CA when I spoke with him a few months
    ago, the store will remain open because the Palo Alto shopping center is already owned by
    the Simon Property Group. I haven’t checked recently to see if the store is still open.
    Not that it matters much. All I buy from BB are PJs and socks.

  3. The financial situation is becoming dire at Tailored Brands. Maybe the BB SPARC will soon own Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank.

  4. Thank goodness the Brooks Brothers on Newbury Street in Boston is still open. Just down the street is the J press pop up shop. Boston is the last bastion of ivy style.

  5. We all share the lament over the formerly beloved brand. And bravo to Christian for reminding us of the meaning of this day, Friday prior to Easter. Ironically, however, the sentence, It is finished, when translated from the original Aramaic into John’s New Testament Greek brings another slap at BB, as it was a business term, tetelestai, meaning “the debt has been paid.” And in the case of that owed from BB to the Labontes, it sadly has not. In those olden days, when a debt was paid the cancelled note was nailed above the door of the former debtor, and the Apostle Paul later capitalized on the idea by writing to Colossae that our debt was cancelled, having been nailed to a cross.

  6. Alas, BB has a storied history of such dealings. For example:

    Brooks Brothers was awarded an initial contract for 12,000 uniforms just two weeks after [the Civil] war was declared. It had obtained the contract through questionable means, and proceeded to fill the order in much the same way. Turned out in only a few weeks, the uniforms were so ill fitting—many lacking buttons and buttonholes—that the New York Volunteers who wore them were taunted by other soldiers. But this was not the worst of it: Facing a shortage of wool, Brooks Brothers glued together shredded, often decaying rags composed of various materials, pressed them into a semblance of cloth and sewed them into uniforms. Far from protecting soldiers from inclement weather, these uniforms fell apart in the first rain.

  7. Minimalist Trad | April 2, 2021 at 11:47 pm |

    OCBDS and rep ties are still available on the BB website.
    Those were the only things I ever bought there.
    Everything else (tweed jackets, grey flannels, and chinos in particular) was always available at a better price and better quality elsewhere.

  8. @Mitchell – agreed on Ivy style and Boston. I love visiting Boston.

  9. The Palo Alto store is indeed still open. Went a few weekends ago and although the BB brand isn’t what it used to be it was still a refreshing experience. Just to be out in public buying a shirt and tie was an exciting taste of a return to normality. That being said, the NYT article is depressing. For the nadir of the brand and especially for the poor couple that owns the warehouse where everything was dumped.

  10. JDV: thanks for your unique input to this story – I love learning things like that. And I was just asking friends the other day why we stopped learning similar things from Bill Bennett. Up until a few years ago, he was on tv and satellite radio, charmingingly quoting Augustine and getting old blue dogs like me to reconsider certain conservative positions. Then he disappeared, and has re-emerged as a dependable apologist for The Donald on almost any issue. I miss the old Bill Bennett. But I’m glad we have you – please contribute more often!

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