We went to one of New York’s most famous department stores after it sold to an office startup and saw the retail apocalypse playing out firsthand

Lord & Taylor's flagship store was sold to WeWork on Tuesday.

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Lord & Taylor’s flagship store was sold to WeWork on Tuesday.
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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

    Lord & Taylor announced on Tuesday that it would sell its flagship store to the co-working startup WeWork. The building will become WeWork’s headquarters in 2018. The deal is yet another sign of how destructive the retail apocalpyse has been. On a visit to the store after the announcement, we saw empty aisles and lots of discounts.

On Tuesday, Canadian retailer Hudson’s Bay announced it would sell its landmark Lord & Taylor store on Fifth Avenue to co-working startup WeWork for $850 million. Lord & Taylor will continue to operate the entire building through the end of this year.

WeWork recently raised $4.4 billion in funding from SoftBank Group and SoftBank Vision Fund and is now considered the most valuable startup in New York City. The flagship Lord & Taylor building will serve as WeWork’s headquarters.

While Lord & Taylor is not leaving the building entirely – it will rent about 25% of the space – the sale is symbolic for the struggling department store and for retail as a whole, as shoppers continue to move away from brick-and-mortar stores toward online options. Lord & Taylor has occupied the building on Fifth Avenue since 1914.

We visited Lord & Taylor’s flagship Fifth Avenue store on Wednesday to see how it’s prepared for the holiday season and the ensuing transition. While the store was offering plenty of discounts, it attracted a small fraction of the significant foot traffic outside.

Here’s how Lord & Taylor will end its run as the sole operator of its iconic Fifth Avenue location.


We went to the store, which is located at 424 5th Avenue, on a Wednesday afternoon. There was significant foot traffic nearby.

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Some of the displays promoted retro styles that seemed to be targeted toward middle-aged shoppers.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Inside, the store wasn’t attracting as many customers as you’d expect from the bustle outside.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The discounts were immediately apparent.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Even premium items, like jewelry, were on sale.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

One floor up, the shoe section was a little more crowded.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Here, we found the first of Lord & Taylor’s efforts to appeal to younger shoppers in the form of a phone-charging station.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

We also noticed relics of a bygone era. Given the emergence of curated, online clothing delivery services like Stitch Fix and Trunk Club, Lord & Taylor’s personal stylist service may not provide the competitive advantage it once did.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

As we moved up through the store, it became apparent that Lord & Taylor has invested in eye-catching displays.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

But they didn’t seem to be drawing much foot traffic.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

For the most part, the women’s clothes seemed to be targeted toward a middle-aged demographic.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

High-end labels like Armani and Kate Spade were common …

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

… as were cashmere sweaters, which were EVERYWHERE.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Lord & Taylor did make overtures toward younger shoppers with yoga apparel.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Another effort to compete with online retailers — a price-matching guarantee.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The cashmere sweaters were inescapable.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The discounts continued in the men’s section.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Still, there weren’t many customers shopping for men’s clothes.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

It wasn’t hard to understand why some of the items were on sale — like this purple velvet blazer.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The men’s offerings were more oriented toward millennials.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The efforts to appeal to young shoppers were more obvious with the graphic tees …

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

… and novelty suits.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Here’s another of Lord & Taylor’s methods to make their stores relevant to online shoppers.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

This display (for cashmere sweaters, of course) creeped us out a bit.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

It’s never too early for Christmas decorations.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider

Ultimately, the discounts and other efforts to attract online shoppers were apparently not enough to fend off the retail apocalypse.

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Mark Matousek/Business Insider