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Lord & Taylor Sold To Online Clothing Rental Startup For $100 Million

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

With news that America's oldest department store chain is getting sold to the 7-year-old startup Le Tote. NPR's Alina Selyukh reports.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Lord & Taylor is almost 200 years old. It gets credit for a lot of firsts in retail - the first female company president in the 1940s, first personal shoppers in the '50s, a dog boutique with mink-lined coats for pets in the '60s. It claims to have invented the department store window display, blowing bleached cornflakes for a Christmas mood during a warm winter in the late '30s. But then came this last Christmas window display...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SELYUKH: ...At the Lord & Taylor flagship in Manhattan. The retailer closed its Fifth Avenue store in January. The iconic building was sold, and now Lord & Taylor itself faces the same fate. Here's Rakesh Tondon, CEO of Le Tote.

RAKESH TONDON: We're definitely a startup, and we're taking the oldest retailer and making it into a startup as well.

SELYUKH: Le Tote is an online subscription service where you can rent nice clothes. Tondon says they've long wanted to have a physical footprint, a place where people could pick up and drop off their rentals, maybe rent heavy items like jackets or buy extra accessories. For $100 million, Le Tote will take over 38 Lord & Taylor locations.

TONDON: So their customers are very similar to our customers. There's a very big overlap.

SELYUKH: This is the latest example of a venerable department store trying to stay afloat. JC Penney and Macy's are dipping into used clothing sales. Barneys New York has declared bankruptcy; Sears just came out of one. Lord & Taylor's current owner, Canada's Hudson's Bay Company, plans to keep the real estate but will sell the Lord & Taylor brand to Le Tote. Tondon says he does not plan any layoffs.

Alina Selyukh, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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