One department store at Westfield South Shore will be leaving, while another at the Bay Shore mall got a reprieve.
The Lord & Taylor at the mall will be among 19 in several states that the retailer will close in its bankruptcy, but J.C. Penney reversed course on a plan to close its store at Westfield South Shore.
Lord & Taylor, the nation’s oldest department store chain, and its parent company, Le Tote Inc., both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sunday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as a major reason for the action.
Lord & Taylor has 38 brick-and-mortar stores. The four on Long Island include those in Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station, Manhasset and Garden City.
Lord & Taylor entered Suffolk County with two stores – the location at Westfield South Shore, which was then called South Shore Mall, and Walt Whitman Shops, then called Walt Whitman Mall – that opened Nov. 11, 1998, according to Newsday archives. At that time, each store was 120,000 square feet.
It’s unclear if the size of the Bay Shore store has changed since then, when the store will close or how many employees will be affected by the closing.
Le Tote did not respond to requests for comment.
Westfield South Shore’s owner, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, a Paris-based company with U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles, declined to comment.
Le Tote Inc. is seeking a buyer for Le Tote, a fashion rental subscription service, and Lord & Taylor, the high-end chain of department stores started in 1826 in New York, the company said in a statement Monday.
Founded in 2012 in San Francisco, Le Tote bought Lord & Taylor from Brampton, Canada-based Hudson’s Bay Corp. for $75 million in 2019.
Lord & Taylor, J.C. Penney and other brick-and-mortar department stores already were struggling as they competed with online retailers before the pandemic, but the health crisis compounded their issues.
Lord & Taylor closed its 38 stores temporarily in March due to the pandemic, and has been slowly reopening them as state and local governments have relaxed stay-at-home orders, according to a bankruptcy court filing.
“Nevertheless, foot traffic has declined significantly compared to pre-COVID levels. Given the expenses associated with a substantial brick-and-mortar presence, and the issues affecting the retail industry and the nation as a whole, a significant number of the Debtors’ stores are operating at sub-optimal performance levels,” the filing said.
On Tuesday, J.C. Penney said it decided against closing its Bay Shore store, after announcing in June that it would be among 13 the chain would be shuttering. That was in addition to the 136 planned store closures that it announced earlier that month, after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the primary reason for the action.
“As J.C. Penney continues to evaluate its retail footprint and make strategic decisions for the future of the business, some stores have been removed from the previously announced list of closures and are under review,” Kristen Bennett, spokeswoman for the Plano, Texas-based company, said Tuesday.
The closing of the J.C. Penney in Bay Shore would have affected 136 employees, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or WARN, alert that the retailer filed with the New York State Department of Labor in June. Under the WARN Act, certain employers must notify workers and the state in advance of mass layoffs or work site closings.
Founded in 1902, J.C. Penney had 1,108 stores in 2010 but now has about 850. And 151 stores are on the current list of closings on the company’s website.
On Long Island, the iconic retailer closed its store at Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream in March, a store at Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove in 2019 and a store at Westfield Sunrise mall in Massapequa in 2017.
J.C. Penney’s other remaining Long Island store is at Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City.