Brooks Brothers Bankrupt

The venerable apparel company is having a hard go of it.

CNBC (“Storied apparel brand Brooks Brothers files for bankruptcy as it seeks a buyer and closes dozens of stores“):

The coronavirus pandemic has now claimed one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious retailers.

Brooks Brothers — pioneer of the polo and uniform of the polished prepster — filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection from creditors on Wednesday, as it continues to search for a buyer.

The retailer, founded in 1818, boasts of having dressed 40 U.S. presidents and countless investment bankers. Early to the office-casual look, it became known for its crisp oxfords and jaunty sports jackets. But rent had become a burden, and the pandemic torpedoed a sale process that began in 2019.

“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 said.

“During this strategic review, Covid-19 became immensely disruptive and took a toll on our business.”

The brand has attracted significant interest from potential acquirers, including brand-licensor Authentic Brands, but many have preferred to buy the brand with fewer stores, CNBC has reported.

[…]

Brooks Brothers generated more than $991 million in sales last year, roughly 20% of which were online. It has wholesale agreements with retailers like Macy’s and Nordstrom and contracts to manufacture uniforms for NetJets, United Airlines and others. 

NYT (“Brooks Brothers, Founded in 1818, Files for Bankruptcy“) adds:

The company, founded and based in New York, filed for Chapter 11 restructuring proceedings in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. Claudio del Vecchio, the Italian industrialist who bought the brand in 2001 and still owns the company, told The New York Times in May that he would not rule out Chapter 11 as a possibility.

Brooks Brothers said in an emailed statement on Wednesday that the filing would allow it to obtain additional financing as it facilitates a sale.

The bankruptcy represents the latest high-profile retail fall during the pandemic, which has caused widespread store closures and sales declines, reshaping the shopping streets of cities across the country. Since May, major names like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J.Crew have all been pushed into Chapter 11 proceedings. The chains, including Brooks Brothers, plan to keep operating, though likely in a pared-back fashion.

[…]

Brooks Brothers, known for its suits and preppy clothes, has been hit especially hard by the virus crisis. It is an era of remote work and job interviews through Zoom, and the postponement of celebrations like weddings, bar mitzvahs, and graduations

It’s an iconic brand and will almost certainly find a buyer. Yet, I’m honestly surprised the company has survived as long as it has. It sells rather nondescript, off-the-rack clothing at a remarkably high price point for the market. And most of the merchandise has long since been manufactured overseas.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    Sniff, I buy Canali and Zegna.

    Of course what I actually wear are Mack Weldon sweats and Eddie Bauer t-shirts.

  2. HarvardLaw92 says:

    It has realistically been circling the drain for at least a decade, if not longer. Presumably they have DIP lined up and they’ll conclude a sale, but I suspect that the terms will be those of basic survival. In other words, whomever ends up with the company is buying the brand, not the infrastructure.

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  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    Does this mean we’ll no longer have an opportunity for a Brooks Brothers riot?

    In my suit wearing days, Brooks Brothers held little appeal for me and I never got in the habit of looking for casual wear there. Even 30-40 years ago there was grumbling among clothing aficionados that the clothing was overpriced and under tailored. Greif, Hathaway and others were producing suits of similar if not higher quality at lower points.

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  4. EddieInCA says:

    Meh. I buy Hugo Boss and Canali. They look good in my closet.

    Never understood why anyone would buy Brooks Brothers suits with so many other great suit makers out there. You can go to Mens Warehouse and buy pretty much the same suit for 1/4 the price of a BB suit.

  5. Gustopher says:

    No! I love Brooks Brothers!

    Being a giant of a man, finding 38″ sleeves is hard, and Brooks Brothers shirts fit me well, are good quality and easy to get. I’ve worn one of their shirts every day for the past… decade?

    I’ve even had some of their plain white shirts sent off to someone in North Carolina to be tie-dyed and sent back to me. Yes, I have tie-dye button down dress shirts.

    This really will be a significant lifestyle change for me.

    I still haven’t adjusted to Columbia scaling back on their big and tall sizes — I’ve been hunting down a specific model of their pants on eBay until there are none left in my size. They aren’t well made, but they fit, and they tone down the Brooks Brothers-iness of the Brooks Brothers dress shirts.

  6. Slugger says:

    When I was young, I liked Brooks Brothers shirt because I have gorilla arms, and they fit me. In those days, they had few stores, but their sales staff was stable, and I could phone my guy at the store in Chicago. Yes, one could shop remotely before the internet. They got a lot more stores about the same time as my career advanced, and I switched to custom made shirts. Many of us didn’t want to convey too much fashion in our dress which made Brooks perfect.

  7. DrDaveT says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Never understood why anyone would buy Brooks Brothers suits with so many other great suit makers out there.

    Agreed. I’m partial to Joseph Abboud. Not that I’ve worn a suit in the past 4 months, nor am likely to for the remainder of the year…

  8. mattbernius says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Never understood why anyone would buy Brooks Brothers suits with so many other great suit makers out there.

    That reminds me that I have a Hickey-Freeman that I need to get tailored (purchased at a factory sale). Gotta support the adopted hometown team.

  9. Joe says:

    Gradually over the course of my professional suit-wearing life, my price point has risen incrementally bit by bit. Early on, BB was over my price and every sales person there made sure I knew it. By the time my price point got to BB’s I considered them under tailored and under styled and still disliked their sales staff.

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  10. Teve says:

    I pay a lot of attention to clothes. Suits are impractical here in Florida, but I pay attention to that stuff anyway. And on the rare occasion when I’ve been in a Brooks Brothers, I just think, this is where George Will goes to buy his grandson a suit for graduating Andover.

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  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: I have similar problems with shirt sleeve length, but still never cared for the cut of Brooks Brothers clothes. Fortunately, I bought about a dozen or so bespoke dress shirts while I was in Korea, so at 68 next week, I’m probably set.

    Having my vertebrae starting to shrink now that I’m older has helped on fit, too, but I’m not quite sure why. I’m about 2 1/2″ shorter than I was 5 years ago.

  12. de stijl says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Even MW knows better to produce a sack suit originally designed in the early 60s.

    BB was dying for decades. The customer base was ancient.

    Remember that Tom Ford induced tiny Pee Wee Herman suit fad of the early 2010s? WTF was that?