Brooks Brothers files for bankruptcy, as coronavirus and casual Fridays take a toll

Brooks Brothers files for bankruptcy, as coronavirus and casual Fridays take a toll

Brooks Brothers, which dressed the American business class in pinstripes for more than 200 years, survived two world wars and the shift

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Brooks Brothers, which dressed the American business class in pinstripes for more than 200 years, survived two world wars and the shift to casual dressing. But it was no match for the coronavirus pandemic.

The closely-held company, which is owned by Italian businessman Claudio Del Vecchio, filed for bankruptcy protection in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday. One of the few brands to make clothes domestically, it warned in June that it could close its three U.S. factories. It operates roughly 250 North America stores.

Brooks Brothers joins a parade of U.S. retailers seeking relief in bankruptcy court since March, including Neiman Marcus Group Inc., J.Crew Group Inc. and J.C. Penney Co.
JCP,
-4.22%

Economic fallout from Covid-19 has also pushed high-profile companies in other industries into bankruptcy, including Hertz Global Holdings Inc.
HTZ,
-6.16%

and Chesapeake Energy Corp.
CHKAQ,
+4.31%

Brooks Brothers was facing challenges before the health crisis forced nonessential retailers to temporarily close their stores. U.S. corporations had turned increasingly casual, and fewer men were buying suits. Once people started sheltering at home, they turned to even more casual attire such as sweatpants. As people begin to head back to the office, it isn’t known whether they will return to a more formal way of dressing.

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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