Brooks Brothers files for bankruptcy

200 year-old retailer and iconic US brand felled by Covid-19 crisis


Brooks Brothers, one of the oldest and most iconic retailers in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

The company opened its first store in lower Manhattan in 1818, with its suits eventually becoming classic Wall Street attire. Its suits have thus spanned much of American history, having been worn by Abraham Lincoln, John F Kennedy and Barack Obama, to name but a few prominent patrons.

The launch of a Tokyo flagship in 1979 marked the start of Brooks Brothers’ international expansion. However, with the dawn of e-commerce and a cultural shift to more casual work clothes, the company’s nearly 500 stores have proved a weight rather than an asset.

The retailer was already wracked with significant debt, but it was the current novel coronavirus crisis that proved to be the final nail in its coffin.

The sharp decline in footfall and looming recession caused by the pandemic has already felled a number of major American retailers, such as JCPenney, J.Crew and Neiman Marcus.

The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing will allow Brooks Brothers to continue operations while it devises a plan to repay its debts and potentially bounce back.

The consumer brands group WHP Global is set to provide a $75m (£59m, €66m) bankruptcy loan to the firm, whose listed assets and liabilities each stand at $500m at least.

Responding to the filing, Brooks Brothers’ owner, the Italian businessman Claudio Del Vecchio, said: “Industry headwinds were only intensified by the pandemic. Seeking protection to facilitate an efficient sale of the business is the best next step for the company to achieve its goals, over any other alternative.”

More than 50 US stores are now due to close permanently, on top of the three American factories that the retailer shut down last month.

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