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Die another day: How some failed or bankrupt retailers are coming back to life

December 28, 2019, 11:30 AM UTC
Eugene Gologursky—Getty Images; Getty Images for Lord + Taylor (pop-up_

A growing number of bankrupt or failed retailers seem to be discovering an afterlife this year—with some beloved brands returning to the land of the living in notably snugger incarnations.

Le Tote, which recently bought the ­struggling Lord & Taylor from HBC, opened a pop-up shop for the department store chain in New York City for the holidays, its first Manhattan presence since the store closed in early 2019. Kids’ apparel brand Gymboree, which filed for bankruptcy in early 2019 for the second time in two years, will live on in the form of shops within 200 Children’s Place stores. And Barneys New York, once it is done liquidating its stores, will have a presence at a number of Saks Fifth Avenue stores, including the fifth floor of the chain’s Manhattan flagship.

These cases, along with the recent small-scale comebacks of FAO Schwarz and Toys “R” Us, all show how much life there still is in many storied retail brands, corporate mismanagement and choking debt loads aside. So while the so-called retail apocalypse has claimed a number of chains, many are being welcomed back with open arms by consumers.

In the case of Lord & Taylor, HBC had been very late in equipping it for e-commerce: It only got around to having a mobile-device-friendly site last year, among other missteps. “We are combining tradition with the technology that Le Tote is bringing to the table,” Le Tote chief executive Rakesh Tondon tells Fortune. “It’s an iconic brand,” he says of the 193-year-old retailer. “There’s a lot of value in that.” And savvier management teams are figuring out how to extract such value.

A version of this article appears in the January 2020 issue of Fortune with the headline “Die Another Day.”

More on the changes in retail

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—E-commerce moves at the speed of I want it now  
—Consumer demands drove apparel industry change 
—Find out how Instagram upended the beauty industry
—Why the future is now in consumer electronics 
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