By Khadeeja Safdar
Henri Bendel, the specialty retailer known for its signature brown-and-white bags, is shutting down after more than a century in business.
L Brands, which acquired the retailer in 1985, said it would close all 23 Henri Bendel stores, including its Fifth Avenue location, and its website, after the holiday season. The company said it plans to focus on its larger businesses including Victoria's Secret, which has struggled in recent quarters.
"We have decided to stop operating Bendel to improve company profitability and focus on our larger brands that have greater growth potential," said Leslie Wexner, chairman and chief executive of L Brands, which also owns Bath & Body Works.
Henri Bendel, a designer born in Lafayette, La., opened his first shop in 1895 in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. He sold apparel, fragrances, cosmetics and handbags and created the store's iconic bag.
The brand was a pioneer in retail and a mainstay in New York City. On its website, Henri Bendel says it was the first luxury retailer with an upper Fifth Avenue address, the first to hold a semiannual sale and the first to stage a fashion show. In the 1960s it hired Andy Warhol as an in-house illustrator.
Under L Brands's ownership, the store stopped selling apparel and focused on handbags and accessories.
Bendel only makes up a small portion of total sales at L Brands, which reported revenue of $12.6 billion last year. The company estimates that Henri Bendel's full-year revenue and operating loss, excluding closing costs, will be approximately $85 million and $45 million, respectively.
Mr. Wexner has a history of shedding businesses to focus on segments that he believes are more lucrative. Over the decades, he has added and sold off several brands, including apparel chains like Abercrombie, Lane Bryant and Express to focus on beauty and lingerie. In 2016, he eliminated swimwear at Victoria's Secret to focus on sportswear.
L Brands recently cuts its full-year earnings guidance, citing declining sales at its lingerie brand. Victoria's Secret, including Pink, reported lower comparable sales for the latest quarter and the company said Pink's leader would be leaving at the end of the year.
L Brands said Bendel employees will be offered retention bonuses for staying until January and will be invited to interview for openings at the company's other units.
Write to Khadeeja Safdar at email@example.com