It’s a terrible time to be a legacy retailer that sells uncomfortable clothing and pays rent on Fifth Avenue. Brooks Brothers ($PRIVATE:PRIV_BROOKSBROTHERS), the 202 year-old pioneer of prep, followed J. Crew, John Varvatos and Neiman Marcus in filing for bankruptcy on Wednesday.

The staple brand for stockbrokers and presidents (the company calls itself America’s oldest retailer and claims to have dressed 40 presidents from Lincoln to JFK to Trump) has been gutted by the freeze of brick-and-mortar shopping and office workers’ pivot to Zoom casual. In April, Brooks Brothers announced it would close 51 of its 250 North American stores and has been seeking a buyer since last year, reports Bloomberg. All of this is bad news for REITS like Simon Property Group, Tanger Factory Outlet Centers and Taubman Centers, the biggest investors in the brand.


# of Brooks Brothers stores

Simon Property Group


Tanger Factory Outlets


Taubman Centers


General Growth Properties


This week’s Chapter 11 filing and a $75 million bankruptcy loan will allow Brooks Brothers to continue operate its remaining stores in accordance with local regulations until it secures new financing. Authentic Brands Group, the owner of Juicy Couture and Nautica which picked up Barneys New York last year, is among the interested parties, reports

For now, it’s unclear where Chuck Bass and Nate Archibald wannabes will turn for their Oxfords, or if they’ll continue wearing them at all. The look of power and authority has changed in the past few years. (Everyone wanted to dress like JFK, fewer see Trump as a style icon). Start-up culture has crept into the corporate world, replacing formalwear with business casual and streetwear. Brooks Brothers had already lost business from the Goldman Sachs staff, which GQ notes, has enjoyed a casual dress code since last year.

But the polo shirt isn’t dead yet, and rival prepsters with less stuffy reputations like Ralph Lauren ($RL) and Vineyard Vines ($PRIVATE:VINEYARDVINES) stand to gain customers. There are ample Ralph Lauren locations within five miles of every Brooks Brothers in states like New York, Nevada, Florida, California, Virginia, and Texas. In New York and Massachusetts, a Vineyard Vines can also be found within five miles of most Brooks Brothers.


Ralph Lauren stores within 5 miles of a Brooks Brothers

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Vineyard Vines stores within 5 miles of a Brooks Brothers

New York




Brooks Brothers defectors could also turn to younger, millennial-oriented companies like Suitsupply and Tie Bar. As GQ suggests, trendier brands that blend streetwear shapes with formal basics like Aime Leon Dore, Noah, and John Elliott could also benefit. Though Lululemon ($LULU) is best known for pricey leggings, GQ points out that their covertly stretchy trousers (now with features like “Anti-stink” and “Anti ball crushing”) have become a Wall Street favorite. Maybe Brooks Brothers' bankruptcy is the death knell for the formal suit as we know it.

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