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Lord & Taylor Set for Digital Rebirth in April

Lord & Taylor is making a comeback, and its new owner is planning for a digital-first future.

According to The Saadia Group, which acquired the one-time department stores and parent Le Tote out of bankruptcy in October for $12 million, a revamped website will continue the Lord & Taylor legacy and offers consumers an “elevated online shopping experience.”

“Lord & Taylor has a deep retail history that spans 195 years, and a tradition of innovation and countless fashion firsts,” said Jack Saadia, principal and co-founder. “We are excited to build the future of the brand, expand the loyal community, and show the world what’s next.”

Saadia has established a track record of refurbishing distressed retailer brands, acquiring New York & Co. and the plus-size Fashion to Figure businesses for $40 million after RTW Retailwinds entered bankruptcy proceedings. They’re now under the umbrella of Saadia Direct, which includes other fashion brands for women, men and kids and home, and websites vintagefoundryco.com, thechichomestore.com, xrayjeans.com and hybridgreenlabel.com.

Nick Kaplan, who co-founded Fashion to Figure and serves as an assistant to Jack Saadia, said the unveiling of the new Lord & Taylor site will be a “soft launch” as the company to expands its offerings.

The new digital store will carry only branded merchandise, many from manufacturers that previously sold to the department store retailer. One category that will have to wait will be Lord & Taylor’s private labels.

“There wasn’t a way to put together any type of private-label assortment, with the timeframe with which Jack made the acquisition and when it closed,” Kaplan said.

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Though Lord & Taylor is reemerging in the digital realm, Kaplan stressed that “Saadia Direct believes in physical retail” and opening stores remains a possibility.

“We have this unique opportunity to engage and evolve with the customer, we’ve effectively just begun to do. So, we don’t have a roadmap today that calls for physical retail,” he said. He sees that as a benefit for now because the lack of four walls to manage against—”which is really a problematic thing for the industry today”—makes it easier to observe first how retail evolves and then to react to how the consumer wants to shop.

Kaplan isn’t ruling out any physical option, noting that popups and Nordstrom Local-style neighborhood stores are evolving concepts to watch. But the online-only format also frees up resources and allows the business to shift gears towards a demand model versus the outmoded supply model. This enables flexibility as marketers and creative teams look at digital key performance indicators, driving efficiency and greater profitability.

Saadia is opening a new corporate office for Lord & Taylor in midtown Manhattan, in addition to distribution center operations in North Brunswick, N.J.

According to Kaplan, The Saadia Group operates the “end-to-end” platform, where sourcing, production and a logistics network are on one side of the equation and distribution centers are on the other.

The Saadia Group is the latest among a small selection of operators giving a second chance to distressed retail operations.

Retail Ecommerce Ventures in December acquired Stein Mart in bankruptcy court for $6.02 million, with plans to relaunch online this year. Earlier last year, it also acquired Modell’s Sporting Goods, a retailer that was mired in bankruptcy proceedings. The company, which also operates Pier 1 Imports, Dressbarn and Linens ‘n Things, revives struggling retailers by giving them an online-only presence.

Earlier this year, distressed women’s chain Christopher & Banks was acquired by ALCC, LLC, an affiliate of Hilco Merchant Resources, for $24.6 million after it filed for bankruptcy court protection. Over 400 stores are being shuttered. Hilco is keeping two stores open—in Missouri and Minnesota—as it taps iMedia to run the surviving digital operation. Proving that retail opportunities are no longer constrained by physical spaces, iMedia plans to promote the retailer’s website as it also looks to launch a weekly Christopher & Banks television program on its flagship TV network ShopHQ. Earlier this month, iMedia said it also plans to launch Christopher & Banks Stylists, an online interactive video platform aimed at improving the shopping experience via a customized wardrobe outfitted by a Christopher & Banks stylist.