With a focus on increasing shareholder value, L Brands announced last week that it will be shuttering all 23 Henri Bendel stores and the Henri Bendel e-commerce website. The stores include Henri Bendel's Fifth Avenue flagship store as well as smaller-format stores in 11 states. All stores and the website will remain in operation through January 2019, with new merchandise continuing to arrive through the holiday season.
“We're committed to improving performance in the business and increasing shareholder value," said Leslie Wexner, chairman and CEO of L Brands, in a statement. "As part of that effort, we've decided to stop operating Bendel to improve company profitability and focus on our larger brands that have greater growth potential."
Total Retail's Take: While closing Henri Bendel might make good business sense, fashionistas and luxury shoppers everywhere are mourning the death of the upscale brand, best known for its designer purses and shoes. Henri Bendel has a storied history: Henry Bendel was a women's hat maker from Lafayette, La., who came to New York City in 1895 and began catering to the city's elite via his first store, which he opened in New York's trendy Greenwich Village. In 1913, the brand became one of the first luxury retailers to open a flagship store with an "upper Fifth Avenue address," according to its website. L Brands acquired Bendel in 1985 and led its expansion into 11 states. But L Brands is struggling, and the Bendel brand didn't have as much growth opportunity as its other brands (e.g., Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works), making it easy to cut from the portfolio. Henri Bendel’s closure reflects challenges facing brick-and-mortar luxury brands as they struggle to compete against online marketplaces like Farfetch.