The coronavirus pandemic has now claimed retail giant Brooks Brothers.
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection from creditors on Wednesday.
It is currently searching for a buyer.
The retailer, founded in 1818, boasts of having dressed 40 U.S. presidents and countless investment bankers.
Early to the office-casual look, it became known for its crisp oxfords and jaunty sports jackets. However overhead like rent had become a burden, and the pandemic torpedoed a sale process that began in 2019.
“Over the past year, Brooks Brothers’ board, leadership team, and financial and legal advisors have been evaluating various strategic options to position the company for future success, including a potential sale of the business,” a spokesperson for the retailer said.
“During this strategic review, Covid-19 became immensely disruptive and took a toll on our business.”
It has more than 500 stores worldwide and employs 4,025 people.
“We are in the process of identifying the right owner, or owners, to lead our iconic Brooks Brothers brand into the future,” the spokesperson said.
“It is critical that any potential buyer aligns with our core values, culture, and ambitions. Further details on the sale process will be made available in the coming days.”
A Disturbing Past
On June 19th, the company issued a statement for Juneteenth in support of the protest movement for social justice. In it, it alluded to its complicity with systemic racism.
“We realize that our company’s 200-year history is intertwined with that of the United States. While we have yet to uncover confirming documentation of the company’s role, we continuously examine our extensive archives and consult with historians on the subject.”
The suit retailer started their company in the 1800s by selling clothes for slaves to slave traders.
“We are committed to this ongoing research. If the company benefited in any way from this oppression, we wholeheartedly apologize and we firmly state that it would be entirely contrary to our beliefs today. We are committed to dismantling any shred of systemic racism within our company and creating an inclusive culture for all of our associates, and customers.”
In April 1993, the company agreed to settle a complaint of racial discrimination in Massachusetts. The settlement came after an undercover sting operation in 1992.
The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination lodged the complaint against Brooks Brothers. Two undercover investigators — one white, one black — applied for jobs at a Boston store in August.
MCAD officials said the black applicant was told there were no job openings. However, the white applicant was encouraged to apply for the position of assistant store manager.
Brooks Brothers initially denied the charge
Brooks Brothers agreed to pay an undisclosed fine. They also implemented an affirmative action hiring policy in all of its 50 stores nationwide.
Brooks Brothers generated more than $991 million in sales last year, roughly 20% of which were online.