The Department Store Apocalypse Hits Manhattan
Lord & Taylor is the oldest department store in the United States. Its headquarters are located in the heart of New York City, and it is a subsidiary of the oldest commercial corporation in North America, the Hudson’s Bay Company, founded in 1690. Lord and Taylor currently has 50 locations and 4 outlets.
Hudson’s Bay Company had committed to spending $250 million to upgrading the Lord & Taylor stores. $150 million alone was set aside to The Fifth Avenue flagship for updates in 2010, according to the article “Retail Renewal: More Renovations In Store For Lord & Taylor On Fifth Avenue.” Lord & Taylor partnered with Brideside to launch an in-store bridal shop in March 2017. And, in April 2017, Lord & Taylor completed a $12 million renovation plan at the Fifth Avenue store.
The newly renovated interior of Lord & Taylor's now closing Manhattan location.
Sadly, Lord & Taylor is closing its iconic Fifth Avenue flagship store next year, and Manhattan will not be the same without it. Hudson’s Bay, the Canada-based parent company of Lord and Taylor, announced in October 2017 that it plans to close its flagship location in early 2019, at the end of the holiday season, and rent the space to WeWork for $850 million.
As a leader of the retail market, Lord & Taylor made the decision to move its headquarters to the Fifth Avenue flagship location in 1914. The announcement to relocate to a new Italian-Renaissance style building was massive news. The building’s architecture is the go-to style for many luxury department stores, used by Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s. Lord & Taylor opened subsequent locations in Manhattan at Broadway and Grand Street and, later, at Broadway and 20th Street on Ladies Mile.
Focusing on the newly opened paradise in 1914, the store was an “automated wonder,” according to the New York Sun, “equipped with a system of conveyor belts. The human equation has been eliminated wherever possible and machinery performs its part quietly and out of sight.” Shoppers could take advantage of the tenth floor for “a dainty luncheon” or an afternoon tea:
The new store took a unique approach to the male shopper with its custom-tailored men’s department as a “realm of complete masculinity.” At the forefront was a men’s-only entrance on the 38th Street side where gentlemen could access the Manicuring Parlor. The idea was to “make your purchases, be shaved and manicured, change your clothing, if you like, and leave without passing through any of the departments where women’s goods are sold.” In addition, the entire fourth floor was “devoted to men’s apparel and accessories for motoring.”
The store even featured an Equestrienne Section, including “a mechanical horse, duplicating the actual motion of walking, trotting, or cantering.” In 2007, the Lord & Taylor building was made an official New York landmark.
Although the 20th century was the prime era for the retail industry, retailers have recently been struggling to maintain consumer attention in the retail market as shoppers turn to the convenience of going online for their shopping needs. Technology has been pushing stores out of the picture, as brick and mortar retailers struggle to maintain customer demand.
However, Lord & Taylor is not disappearing completely from the market. Although its physical presence will be missing, Lord & Taylor will be leasing the 3,000-square-foot eighth floor to Walmart, as a part its rebranding. The company is looking to expand its clothing department. The Head of Fashion, Denise Incandela of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, explains that “[a]s part of the Walmart.com redesign, and our commitment to establish Walmart.com as a destination for fashion, we recently re-launched our new fashion shopping experience. The new experience is aligned with how customers shop the category, with editorial elements that inspire customers to browse and buy, and has already generated positive customer response. The next step is the launch of the Lord & Taylor flagship store, which introduces exciting new premium brands to our customers.”
The new and improved Lord & Taylor will be moving online to walmart.com and feature thousands of trendy designs, including men’s, women’s, junior’s, children’s, shoes, handbags, accessories, and jewelry, that will be updated regularly. Customers will be able to shop and filter based on category, brand, material, or color, or even draw inspiration from editorial stories. Orders over $35 will be eligible for free two-day shipping.
The Christmas windows were once a must-see item for tourists.
However, the closing of the iconic Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue will create a void for many used to brick and mortar retail, and will forever be missed in the heart of Manhattan.
Written by Chanel Qin, Edited by Jack Vasquez, Alexander Fleiss
“Retail Renewal: More Renovations In Store For Lord & Taylor On Fifth Avenue”. The Shophound. March 27, 2013.
“Lord & Taylor Launches In-Store Bridal Shop’. McClay, Rebecca. Investopedia. March 21, 2017.