NEW YORK — Searle, the Manhattan specialty retailer known for its coats, has filed for bankruptcy court protection.
The filing on Wednesday in a Manhattan bankruptcy court, under the name Searle Blatt & Co. Ltd., was a voluntary Chapter 11 petition. Also filing was an affiliate firm, Tom Jones Inc. The filing listed assets of between $1 million and $10 million, and liabilities in the same range.
Searle manufactures women’s ready-to-wear apparel and accessories, which are sold in the stores, under the Searle label, while Tom Jones operates the seven Searle retail sites in New York as well as the brand’s Web site. There are also two nonfiling affiliates, MBU Inc., which manufactures coats and sportswear, and 119 Corp., which produces shearling coats and outerwear.
“The debtors have been adversely impacted by the recent economic downturn,” Searle Blatt, president of both debtors, said in an affidavit. “Sales have dropped dramatically over the past 12 months. The holiday season, historically the high point of the year, did not reverse the trend, and the debtors were forced to reorganize.” Blatt said the debtors intend to continue operating their businesses.
“Everything is being reevaluated, but we haven’t made any decisions yet,” said Rick Weinstein, Searle’s director of sales and marketing. Asked whether Searle would consider shedding any of its locations, Weinstein said: “We are considering everything.”
Retail experts predicted a spate of bankruptcies this month, following a dismal holiday season. “I am not surprised,” said Walter Loeb, president of Loeb Associates. “Bills had to be paid by Jan. 10. People that are highly leveraged may not find it possible to pay and seek court protection.”
Weinstein said the brutal economic environment that caused consumers to rein in spending led to the filing. “Every definition of the business environment has changed,” he said.
Founded as T. Jones in the early Sixties by Blatt, the company changed its name to Searle in the early Eighties. The retail expansion occurred over the next two decades. After the first store opened on Third Avenue and 62nd Street, two additional units bowed in close proximity on Third Avenue. Three units on Madison Avenue between 60th and 84th streets opened, along with a store in the FlatIron District. Gary Alterman, senior vice president of Robert K. Futterman & Assoc., said Searle locations are all excellent and “most have older leases so the company isn’t paying the crazy current rents.”
Searle in 2006 began taking a more daring buying approach with an emphasis on European designer, bridge and contemporary lines. “I’m comfortable with our merchandise [mix],” said Weinstein, who noted the Searle label now represents 60 percent of the stores’ product. “We’ve really played up Searle in the last year,” he said. “Now that we’re wholesaling around the country, it’s enabled us to get behind the production and do more for our own stores.”
While there was a dearth of traffic prior to Christmas, post-holiday traffic is strong. This might have to do with the fact that Searle is promoting a sale during which merchandise is reduced by up to 80 percent. “A smart retailer finds the price at which the merchandise will move,” Weinstein said. “The customer is responding.
Searle’s secured creditors listed are Bank Leumi, owed $961,500, and Credit Cash, owed $282,000. The top unsecured creditor is listed as Easter State Health & Welfare Fund, which is owed $219,967.80. Its second top unsecured creditor is accounting firm Marks Paneth & Shron in New York, which is owed $92,000. Other creditors listed each were owed less than $50,000, with many owed less than $20,000.
Searle said it has two pending lawsuits, both filed last year. One is in a state court in Queens and the other, a state court in Manhattan. There was no information regarding the nature of those lawsuits.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye