Century 21 was a retailer, founded in 1961, which until a few years ago was based entirely in New York City. One of its locations, on Cortland Street, was located near the World Trade Center, and its quick reopening following the 9/11 attacks was seen as a landmark moment in Lower Manhattan’s recovery from that tragedy.
But now, on the eve of the anniversary of those attacks, Century 21 is the latest major retail chain to fold amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced Thursday, along with a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. The culprit, according to the company, is a lack of payment from their insurers, due to the pandemic.
“Century 21 Stores, a pioneer of off-price retail, today announced plans to commence a wind down of its retail operations,” the company announced in a press release, adding that going-out-of-business sales will be held at its thirteen locations.
The move, the company says, “follows nonpayment by the Company’s insurance providers of approximately $175 million due under policies put in place to protect against losses stemming from business interruption such as that experienced as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The closing down of Century 21 follows that of Lord and Taylor, another New York-based retail chain that announced in late August that it was closing all of its stores after nearly 200 years. Numerous other retail chains, including J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, and the parent company of Men’s Wearhouse, have also declared bankruptcy amid the pandemic, but not all of them are facing full-on closure.
“While insurance money helped us to rebuild after suffering the devastating impact of 9/11, we now have no viable alternative but to begin the closure of our beloved family business because our insurers, to whom we have paid significant premiums every year for protection against unforeseen circumstances like we are experiencing today, have turned their backs on us at this most critical time,” Century 21 co-CEO Raymond Gindi said in a statement.
“While we wish that Century 21 could continue to be a must-see shopping destination for so many, we are proud of the pioneering role it has played in off-price retail and the iconic brand it has become,” the other co-CEO, IG Gindi, said in the same statement. “It has been a true honor for us to be part of the vibrant New York City fashion scene and to serve millions of locals, tourists, and celebrities, side by side.” The Gindi family led Century 21 for its entire, nearly sixty-year existence.
Per CNBC, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association is among the insurance companies who have declared pandemic outbreaks “uninsurable.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver. Image: Reuters