Brooks Brothers, worn by Lincoln and Kennedy, goes bankrupt

Brooks Brothers, worn by Lincoln and Kennedy, goes bankrupt

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

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NEW YORK (AP) — Brooks Brothers, the 200-year-old company that dressed nearly every US president, filed for bankruptcy protection today, the latest major clothing seller to be toppled by the coronavirus pandemic.

Founded in New York in 1818, Brooks Brothers survived two world wars, the Great Depression and even managed to stay afloat as dress standards eased in the office. But with so many stores closed and, with millions working from home, a crisp suit has been pushed to the very bottom of shopping lists.

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

The retail sector was under severe pressure even before the pandemic. Rival Barneys New York filed for bankruptcy protection late last year. Since COVID-19 began to spread in the US, JCrew, Neiman Marcus, JC Penney and other national retail chains have followed suit.

The virus has hollowed out spending in many places and accelerated the shift to online shopping, mostly to the benefit of big retailers like Walmart, Target, and Amazon.com. Stores have begun to open in some parts of the country, but millions of people are still hunkered down at home. There are regions in the US that are now getting hit with a wave of infections and some companies like Apple are shutting down stores again in those areas.

Brooks Brothers said today that it will continue operations as it restructures and is looking to reopen shops that are not being closed permanently. The company employed 4,000 people in March, before it furloughed about a third of its workers.

Jonathan Pasternak, a bankruptcy lawyer at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, said that even before the pandemic, Brooks Brothers' store expansion and the cost of making clothes in the US had created a financial burden, but he does not believe the company will disappear.

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

The company has a storied history, dressing at least 40 American presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, who was wearing a Brooks Brothers coat when he was assassinated in 1865. Brooks Brothers' two-button suits were a favourite of President John F Kennedy.

But it's cultural influence has been broad.

Clark Cable wore Brooks Brothers and Jennifer Aniston appeared on the cover of GQ magazine wearing nothing but a red, white and blue Brooks Brothers tie.


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