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The History of L&T

Milestones from the company's history.

1826: Lord & Taylor is founded as a dry goods store at 47 Catherine Street in lower Manhattan by James Lord and George Washington Taylor.

1872: After the Civil War, Lord & Taylor follows the city’s population uptown, opening a store on Broadway at 20th Street. Over the next 30 years, it expands to fill the blocks between 19th and 20th Streets and Broadway and Fifth Avenue.

1909: The retailer is sold to United Dry Goods Co. (In 1916, United Dry Goods and Associated Merchants Co. merge to form Associated Dry Goods.)

1914: Lord & Taylor moves further uptown to Fifth Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets, its current location.
1938: Lord & Taylor introduces nostalgic Christmas windows with themes such as “Christmas on Old Broadway.”

1941: The retailer opens its first branch location in Manhasset, N.Y. Six years later, a unit bows in Westchester.

1945: Lord & Taylor blossoms under Dorothy Shaver, the first woman to run a major department store. Shaver champions American designers such as Claire McCardell and Bonnie Cashin under the banner “Lord & Taylor presents…” Some of Shaver’s innovations include a petites department, a shop for college fashions and a floor devoted to juniors. During Shaver’s tenure, advertising begins to feature illustrations and a handwritten logo.

1975: Joseph Brooks, chairman and chief executive officer, embarks on an aggressive expansion, expanding the 19-unit chain to 46 stores during his 11-year tenure, reinforcing the retailer’s penetration in several regions. At the same time, Brooks broadens the retailer’s appeal by introducing lower-price merchandise, and establishes a tradition of playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” every morning at opening.

1986: Lord & Taylor is acquired by May Co. as part of May’s purchase of Associated Dry Goods.

1987: Marshall Hilsberg becomes chairman and ceo, succeeding Brooks. He guides the helm of L&T for 13 years, more than doubling the division’s volume and taking it national to 80 stores. However, he’s criticized for watering down the fashion content in his quest for mass appeal.

This story first appeared in the June 23, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

2000: Jane Elfers is named president and ceo, and sets out to reposition the retailer as a purveyor of upscale better and bridge fashions.

2003: In an unprecedented downsizing, the chain closes 32 low-volume stores, dismantling much of a misguided expansion through the Sunbelt during the Nineties and returning its focus to core Northeastern and Midwest markets to improve profitability. This brings the chain down to 54 stores in 11 states and Washington, D.C., from 86 stores in 19 states.

2005: Lord & Taylor is acquired by Federated Department Stores as part of Federated’s $17 billion takeover of May Department Stores. Federated announces plans to convert nearly all of May’s nameplates, but says the options it’s considering for Lord & Taylor include paring down or liquidating the chain.

2006: Federated puts the 48-unit Lord & Taylor up for sale. Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and ceo of Federated, says his preference is to sell the retailer as an ongoing business.

2006: L&T is sold to NRDC Equity Partners for $1.195 billion.