Last days of Lord & Taylor’s 5th Avenue flagship mourned by shoppers

As Lord and Taylor on Fifth Avenue prepares to close its doors for good, shoppers flock to grab one last sale at the iconic storefront.
As Lord and Taylor on Fifth Avenue prepares to close its doors for good, shoppers flock to grab one last sale at the iconic storefront. Photo Credit: Sam Sulam

For holiday shoppers, Lord & Taylor’s flagship midtown store has been more than just a place to find affordable chic dresses, or admire festive window displays. It was a staple of Fifth Avenue’s fashion corridor.

The chain, however, is closing its iconic location in early 2019, and patrons of all ages are flocking to the racks to snag one last deal and take in one last stroll of the Italian Renaissance-style building. 

“It’s definitely sad when these places take a hit,” said Kelby Schmidt, 26, of Astoria, who stopped by with her mom and grandmother this week. “It’s half of the reason people come to the city, (to see) the architecture and the way the city was built.”

Lord & Taylor’s closing isn’t surprising given the downward trends in department store sales and the domination of online shopping, according to Marcia Flicker, an associate professor of marketing at Fordham University. However, the store’s demise, along with other comparable closings such as Henri Bendel’s Fifth Avenue location, creates a void in the Manhattan shopping experience that invites banality and diminishes its luster.

“What’s left on Fifth Avenue is a lot of the chain stores that sell their own brand, the Zaras and the H&Ms that you can find anywhere else in the United States,” she said.

Lord & Taylor opened its first store in the Lower East Side in 1826, before going on to launch the Fifth Avenue flagship in 1914. Flicker said the company and its location strived to bring top fashion products to the middle class and as a result of its success, other department stores along the avenue followed suit.

Loyal Lord & Taylor shoppers, such as Nikki Yeboah, 25, from the Bronx, said they still feel that sentiment when they come in to shop there. Yeboah, who bought her prom dress and several special occasion dresses from the Lord & Taylor store, said she prefers shopping there because the environment and the staff felt welcoming.

“When you go into other big stores, like Barneys, it feels big and intimidating, and you don’t fit in,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that they are closing.”

Flicker said the store’s end will also weaken Manhattan’s attraction to visitors. The store’s history and popularity, especially during the holidays, helped to fuel foot traffic and spending in midtown.

Laura Popich, 54, of Fairfield, Connecticut, and a former Queens resident, said checking out the latest Lord & Taylor deals was a permanent item on her to-do list anytime she and her family came into Manhattan. From simply window shopping to picking up a first Holy Communion dress for her daughter, Popich said visiting the store is a tradition she will miss a lot.

“It’s hard, because I like going to stores, and going through the racks and talking with people,” she said.

Communal office space company WeWork, which purchased the building last year, will take over most of the space next year. City law prohibits the company from making major alterations to the landmarked building without approval.

Flicker said she wasn’t sure if there will be a new rush of offices along Fifth Avenue, but acknowledged that New Yorkers will have to get used to a new reality along the corridor.

 “That whole tradition that lasted for decades of making the trek down to Fifth avenue to see the holiday decorations is gone. The sense that Fifth Avenue is the place to be, that is all gone,” she said.