L Brands has said it will close Henri Bendel.
After 123 years, what had been a New York City landmark will close in January. Henri Bendel began as a milliner shop in 1895 and ultimately became a destination for high-end designer goods. According to the company’s site, the retailer’s namesake founder is credited with introducing Chanel to the U.S. and discovering Andy Warhol.
Parent company L Brands will shutter the store’s Fifth Avenue location along with 22 others. The store closure comes at a time when L Brands is focused on revitalizing its once powerhouse Victoria’s Secret brand.
“We are committed to improving performance in the business and increasing shareholder value. As part of that effort, we have decided to stop operating Bendel to improve company profitability and focus on our larger brands that have greater growth potential,” Leslie Wexner, chairman and CEO of L Brands said in a statement. “This decision is right for the future growth of our company, but not easy because of the impact to our L Brands family.”
L Brands purchased the standalone Bendels store in 1985 and created the flagship, which housed floors of makeup, jewelry, accessories, apparel and shoes.
In 2008, L Brands shifted focus, creating a new concept for Bendel. Gone was the apparel and much of what shoppers had come to recognize about the store. The iconic name and brown-and-white stripe branding was retained and used on stores across 11 states. By 2014, the retail chain primarily carried Bendel branded goods and select beauty brands and accessories.
At one time, the store was known for its open see, which prompted aspiring designers and artist to line up in hopes of selling into the famed retailer. The events were held twice a year and launched new talent through trunk shows and other showcases in store.
Shoppers who loved the store, have said they’re sad to see the one-of-a-kind retailer go.
“One of the many appeals of Henri Bendel to me has been the fact it wasn’t a household name. Everyone has Kate Spade, Michael Kors or Louis Vuitton. I loved having brand loyalty to an exclusive world-wide boutique,” said Jenny Dean Hester, who frequented the flagship with her daughter whenever she was in New York over the last 15 years. “To me, it embodies the spirit of New York – a fantastically historically elegant dream.”
For Alexandra Tran, her love of the store began once a location opened in the South Coast Plaza mall in Southern California. “HB was very on trend and affordable,” she said, but ultimately she didn’t shop the brand as much as she might have because of what she called the store’s lackluster marketing. “HB’s designs were fun, but the brand fell short of their marketing experience. I never received emails that were enticing enough to bring me back into the store.”
Tran, who is a merchandise associate at Nordstrom, wishes Bendels had offered its goods wholesale through a store like hers to boost brand exposure before it was too late.
With Bendels gone, the store’s parent company, which also owns the Bath & Body Works chain, can focus on Victoria’s Secret, which has fallen out of favor with some shoppers as upstart intimates brands have emerged with body positive messaging that’s clicking with today’s consumer. The business unit reported a 1 percent decline in comp store sales during the second quarter in August, prompting Victoria Secret CEO of lingerie Jan Singer to admit ““we have more to do to deliver long-term growth and profitability,” during the company’s earnings call.
The challenge is further reflected in L Brands’ full-year guidance, which it revised down from $2.70 to $3.00 to $2.45 to $2.70.