Archive for the ‘Bankruptcy’ Category

Service of Losing Retail Friends: Century 21, Maison Kayser & Lord & Taylor

Monday, September 14th, 2020


When I heard last week that we were losing to bankruptcy a favorite discount store of mine–Century21–my heart sank. I have been a customer since the 1980’s when the Gindi family owned one small store in Manhattan’s financial district. In the early days along with drastic discounts for top of the line products the personal service by caring sales staff was equal to what customers received from expensive boutiques.

Since then the east coast discounter, a destination of tourists from around the world, expanded to 13 locations and its flagship quadrupled [my estimate] in size. The shoe departments alone seemed almost as big as the original store. It was no longer like its early self but was still a great place to find shoes, luggage, basic undergarments for men and women, handbags, towels and sheets at reduced prices.

Lord & Taylor NYC Photo:

Many years ago a friend called me in a panic. It was two days before Christmas and she’d not bought a single gift for her brother and members of his big family and she was going to his house for the celebration. We met at Century 21 and within an hour–that’s all I had as I was preparing for our large family Christmas Eve gathering the next night–she was well on her way to checking off everyone on her list with great presents for each. She was smiling when we waved goodbye.

I’ve had a yen for Maison Kayser baguettes, sandwiches, and pastries for months and I’d make a point to frequently walk by the bakery/takeout nearest my apartment to see if it had reopened. No luck. The US branches have filed for bankruptcy. According to Bloomberg, the owner of Pain Quotidien and other food franchises–Aurify Brands–will buy it if nobody else offers a higher price. I hope whomever acquires it employs some of the gifted bakers. According to Claire Boston and Steven Church, “Maison Kayser has around 150 locations in 22 countries, with the U.S. bankruptcy action covering just the restaurants owned by Cosmoledo.”

Friends who mourn the liquidation of Century 21 also mention the loss of Lord & Taylor. We aren’t going to events requiring new clothes right now and many are not traveling so with the exception of buying for growing children most won’t feel the impact of these losses right away.

This is just the beginning. Where will the manufacturers sell their goods if there are no retailers? It’s scary to predict where the unraveling will end up.

Have you lost any of your favorite retail haunts? How have you replaced them? Any fond memories?

Maison Kayser’s goodies Photo:

Service of Nightmare for a Bride: What You Don’t Anticipate is What May Go Wrong

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

1930s wedding dress. Photo:

Last weekend an NPR segment made me cringe for those involved. Bill Chappell’s headline sets the stage: “Brides Scramble For Dresses And Information After Alfred Angelo Stores Close Abruptly.” Brides and their attendants who’d bought and paid for their gowns at the chain’s 61 stores—as well as the chain’s [unpaid] employees–were given little if any warning, according to Chappell.

The 80 year old business, started in Philadelphia by Alfred Angelo Piccione and his wife Edythe, filed under Chapter 7, so no restructuring will happen, and its headquarters office in Delray Beach has an eviction lawsuit against it.


Refunds from Alfred Angelo don’t appear to be in the wedding parties’ cards. As important: What to wear? Chappell wrote: “To help those who might not get their dresses, some former brides are now offering up dresses for free — and member station KPCC in Southern California is using the #dressmatchmaker hashtag to orchestrate dress exchanges.” Others are sharing contact information of seamstresses they learned were altering dresses.

Customers of the Tulsa, Okla. branch are lucky. Employees there, knowing that they probably wouldn’t be paid, opened the store anyway and planned to ship dresses to brides. In addition, they weren’t charging if money was still owed on a gown.

One bridesmaid who expected to wear her gown in a fall wedding “told KPCC that when she called Visa about the situation, ‘They said that if the company doesn’t follow through then they will give me my money, and they will go after Alfred Angelo.’”

In subsequent coverage, Peg Brickley and Michelle Ma wrote in The Wall Street Journal that the reason for the failure is [still] unknown and acknowledged that at one time the business was “considered one of the top bridal designers in the country.” The gowns were “priced in the midrange, where most of the money is spent,” according to an industry research firm.

The article reported that retailers, both online and actual, that depended on the manufacturing and wholesale divisions, were also both surprised and left in the lurch. While competitors anticipated an immediate uptick in business, one may have spoken for many small wedding dress enterprises when she expressed concern for the future. She predicted that customers would be reluctant to buy from them for fear that they, too, might go out of business in a flash.

Apart from the biggest hiccup—a bride or groom no-show—or when the photographer’s results fall flat, the wedding glitches I know of, though traumatic at the time, pale by comparison to a lost dress. They range from a florist who shorted the number of bouquets and dashed to get a replacement that didn’t match the others to a mom who left her flower girl daughter’s dress shoes at home. Do you know of other wedding calamities and how they were resolved? How can you protect yourself from similar misfortunes when dealing with a small business?

Photo: pinterest

Service of Empty Shelves—Or Is That Empty Suits?

Monday, September 21st, 2015

A & P empty shelves Sept 2015

I began to catch up with the A&P bankruptcy story in the New York Post on September 1 when Lisa Fickenscher reported an eye-opener: The company that went into bankruptcy in July wanted to squeeze 75 percent out of the severance packages of 2,100 workers to increase a fund for 495 executive retention bonuses. They hoped to divide a $5 million pot.

In “Judge slaps A&P by limiting severance cuts,” she wrote that Judge Robert Drain’s ruling reduced the percentage to 48 percent. According to Fickenscher, one union official said “I don’t see any purpose in rewarding the same people who drove this company into bankruptcy.”

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company umbrella, which we know as A&P, includes stores named A&P, Pathmark, Food Basics, Waldbaums, Food Emporium, and SuperFresh which it plans to sell or close.

Money 4Subsequent to this ruling—just before a September 11th hearing–A&P reduced its request for executive retention bonuses from $5 million for 495 people to $3.9 million for 468, according to Joan Verdon in In the second ruling Judge Drain said he’d approve the $3.9 million if the company added $1.1 million to “severance payments, which would go mostly to union workers.” In “A&P Increases Severance Payments” she wrote: “Drain said in considering A&P’s request for the retention pay, he felt as if he was picturing a line of 25,000 union workers standing in front of him ‘and I’m being asked to poke each one of them in the eye.’”

The corporation’s lawyer said he’d carry the judge’s ruling back to his client.

A&P CoffeeI have a personal history with the A&P. I went to one almost daily with my mother as a young child—it was down the street from our apartment—and now, in upstate New York,  I drop into one every weekend. Seeing this once venerable brand disintegrate makes me sad. According to Wikipedia, it was “the largest retailer in the nation” from 1915-1965. It was the largest food retailer from 1915-1975. It was founded in New York in 1859 as a chain of coffee and tea stores with a mail order business.

Last weekend in one of its Dutchess County stores, some of its shelves were empty. As an example, see the soda area, [photo at the top of the post], and it no longer carries brands such as Häagen-Dazs ice cream [just as well], yet its employees are as helpful and pleasant as always.

What are the advantages of going into bankruptcy? Customers and employees are the last on management’s mind. Suppliers are understandably reticent to sell goods to a company that might not pay its bills. Potential buyers don’t see the bankrupted company at its best. In an era of limited customer loyalty and plenty of competition, not finding what they want on the shelves of one store customers will quickly forge a path to another one. So who wins?


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