Brooks Brothers, which outfitted 40 of the last 45 presidents, files for bankruptcy protection

“COVID-19 became immensely disruptive and took a toll on our business,” the 202-year-old company said.
Image: Brooks Brothers
Brooks Brothers storefront closed on May 6, 2020 in Vancouver, Canada.Andrew Chin / Getty Images file

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By Claire Atkinson

Brooks Brothers, the classic suit retailer that outfitted 40 of the last 45 presidents, is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company announced Wednesday.

The 202-year-old brand is the latest victim on Main Street of the pandemic, and joins a growing list of retailers whose business models are faltering as thousands of office workers stay home in their sweatpants. J.Crew, Neiman Marcus and JCPenney have all filed for bankruptcy protection since the coronavirus shut down the economy in March.

“Today, Brooks Brothers filed for voluntary chapter 11 protection in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware so that we can continue a sale process for the Company while serving customers," Arthur Wayne, a spokesperson for the company, said in a statement released Wednesday, adding that “COVID-19 became immensely disruptive and took a toll on our business.”

The company said it is looking to obtain additional financing to help smooth an ongoing sales process, and will remain open for business while reorganizing.

The bankruptcy filing is expected to be made public later on Wednesday morning.

The company generated $991 million in sales in 2019 and has more than 4,000 employees. It had already decided to close 51 stores, but is working to reopen other stores closed as a result of lockdown orders.

The cancellation of formal business and social events and family gatherings may also have hurt demand for the company’s upscale suits. Perhaps a sign of the desire to boost merchandise sales, the website is currently offering three men's shirts for $89. In March, the company said it would help make masks and gowns to help increase supply for health care workers.

Founded in 1818 in Manhattan, the company began creating military uniforms and coats for veterans of the 1812 war and then began outfitting commanders in chief. Brooks Brothers said Abraham Lincoln was one of its "most illustrious presidential patrons," requiring custom tailoring for his six-feet-four-inch frame. Lincoln was wearing an embroidered Brooks Brothers frock coat when he was assassinated.