What we can learn from the fate of retailer Brooks Brothers

| Oct 12, 2020 | Chapter 11 Bankruptcy |

Like many businesses in the last several months, Manhattan’s Brooks Brothers was hit hard by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, even before the virus came into the picture, the 202-year-old elite fashion retailer whose suits adorned many U.S. presidents had struggled.

Through the years, the oldest apparel company in the U.S. fell out of favor as far back as the 1990s to more stylish brands such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger as retail trends shifted away from Brooks’ standard sack suit. In the past, the company may have defined elite fashion for East Coast residents, but not anymore. And in July, Brooks Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. By August, Brooks Brothers was purchased by Sparc Group LLC, a consortium that has been adding bankrupt retailers to its portfolio.

Understand the market, know your vision

The COVID-19 pandemic likely finally pushed Brooks Brothers over the edge. In the times of COVID-19, business meetings usually were no longer in-person, and Zoom meetings often consisted of participants wearing leisure clothing and the less-than-casual sweats. No Brooks Brothers suits.

What can businesses learn from what happened in the Brooks Brothers bankruptcy? Here are a few things:

  • Stay in touch with the marketplace in order to remain relevant among consumers. Failure to adjust to changing markets can be the death knell.
  • Avoid potentially problematic choices. Brooks Brothers made a series of questionable updates to its clothing line, dismaying many of the company’s loyalists.
  • Know your company and its vision. Brooks Brothers went through a series of owners who tried to make changes that turned out to be less than successful.
  • Avoid incongruous decision-making. For a time, Brooks Brothers attempted an excessive expansion in places such as suburban outlet malls, devaluing the brand.

A Chapter 11 bankruptcy helps businesses reorganize their debts, while looking ahead for a relaunch. You want a tomorrow and a next day and a next day for your business. And you want to make that a success.