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story.lead_photo.caption This Lord & Taylor store in New York was holding a closing sale in 2018. Le Tote, an e-commerce clothes rental subscription company, is buying Lord & Taylor, which has struggled in recent years as more people shop online.

The new owner of Lord & Taylor said Wednesday that the company has not yet decided how the deal will affect the luxury department-store chain's partnership with Walmart Inc.

Lord & Taylor has a dedicated store on Walmart.com.

Le Tote, the e-commerce clothes rental subscription company, which announced its agreement Wednesday to acquire Lord & Taylor, said in a news release that it will assume operations of the chain's 38 stores as well as its digital channels.

As for whether Lord & Taylor's standalone store on Walmart.com would be part of that deal, Le Tote spokeswoman Abby Homer said in an email that the San Francisco company is evaluating the "current footprints" of both Le Tote and Lord & Taylor in terms of stores, employees and inventory.

"While I can say that Le Tote is definitely keeping the Lord & Taylor brand + brick and mortar presence, we don't have any additional further details on the Walmart front at the moment," Homer said.

Walmart did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Late Wednesday, Lord & Taylor items were still available at Walmart.com/fashion under premium brands.

The Bentonville retailer teamed with Lord & Taylor just over a year ago to create an online store billed as a "premium" shopping destination. The digital store featured designer labels such as Tommy Bahama, Vince Camuto and Lucky Brand, with clothing for men, women and children.

When Walmart announced the debut of its Lord & Taylor "flagship" online store in May 2018, it described the move as the next step in its commitment to establish Walmart.com as a destination for fashion.

Under the terms of Wednesday's sale agreement, Le Tote will pay Hudson's Bay Co. -- Lord & Taylor's owner -- $75 million in cash when the transaction closes, plus a secured promissory note for $25 million payable in cash after two years. The deal is expected to close by the Christmas shopping season, according to the release.

Le Tote on Wednesday promised to offer more brands, new options and "massive changes" to its website.

Le Tote chief executive Rakesh Tondon said he wants to integrate the two businesses. That means Lord & Taylor visitors will ultimately have a choice to buy, rent, or join the ranks of subscribers. They'll also get more curated suggestions from the tech-savvy company when shopping online.

Le Tote regulars will gain access to 500 additional brands as well as categories they currently can't find on the site, such as cosmetics and shoes. They will be able to pick up their boxes in stores, return some items and make changes to the selection on the spot, according to Tondon.

"We want to give customers the ability to consume the way they want to," Tondon said in an interview Wednesday.

While it's become increasingly common for businesses that started online to establish retail stores, Le Tote's entry is dramatic. The startup with 200 employees will take over stores totaling about 4.5 million square feet when it closes the purchase from Hudson's Bay Co.

"We're swinging for the fences," Tondon said. "We believe we've got to aim big and go where the customers are."

Information for this article was contributed by Serenah McKay of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Gillian Tan and Sandrine Rastello of Bloomberg News.

Business on 08/29/2019

Print Headline: Lord & Taylor to get online owner

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