Brooks Brothers goes bust as pandemic guts business attire demand

Andrew Cummings
July 9, 2020

Famed suit seller Brooks Brothers filed for Chapter 11 on Wednesday in DE federal court, along with its jewelry subsidiary Deconic.

The company that says it's put 40 US presidents in its suits survived two world wars and navigated through casual Fridays and a loosening of dress standards even on Wall Street, but the coronavirus pandemic pushed the 200-year-old company into seek Chapter 11 protection Wednesday.

Brooks Brothers will permanently close more than a quarter of its 200 stores.

"Although the pandemic has severely eroded the outlook for the business, Brooks Brothers has long suffered from a failure to decisively adapt to changing trends", said Neil Saunders, the managing director of GlobalData Retail.

Another men's clothier, Barneys of NY, sought bankruptcy protection a year ago, and it was followed by a slew of others toppled by the pandemic, including Neiman Marcus, J.Crew and J.C. Penney. Since COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S, J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney and other national retail chains have followed suit.

The privately held company had been struggling as business attire grew more casual in recent years. Brooks Brothers, which calls itself the oldest US clothing retailer, has dressed USA presidents including Abraham Lincoln and now sells men's, women's and children's clothing.

Officials at Brooks Brothers say they will continue operations as they restructure. The company employed 4,000 people in March, before it furloughed about a third of its workers.

The store began its worldwide expansion with a Tokyo flagship in 1979 and opened more than 250 locations outside the U.S. The stores have become a burden as consumers shift toward more casual work clothes and online purchases.

"The good thing about Brooks Brothers: It's a very strong brand", he said.

A company spokesperson tells JCK: "The Chapter 11 filing does not mean that Brooks Brothers or its subsidiary Deconic are going out of business". Brooks Brothers' two-button suits were a favourite of President John F. Kennedy.

Other reports by iNewsToday