Lord & Taylor boasts the title of oldest upscale, specialty department store chain in the entire United States. Samuel Lord started the company in 1826 with his wife’s cousin, George Washington Taylor. Founded in Manhattan, it was originally a shop geared towards fancy misses’ wear, such as cashmere shawls and other high-fashion items. In 1861, the store moved to Broadway, becoming part of the original set of shops that made up the “Ladies Mile.” Continuing its history of firsts, Lord & Taylor became one of the first stores on Fifth Avenue, and was the first store to begin having Christmas displays in their windows for the holiday season instead of just displaying merchandise there. Perhaps more incredible than anything else, Lord & Taylor became the first major store on Fifth Avenue to have a female president when they named Dorothy Shaver to that position in 1946.

Under Dorothy Shaver, the Lord & Taylor brand took off, gaining a reputation for a classy establishment, beautiful associates, and a personal shopping experience that is continued to this day via the Red Rose Personal Shopping Service. Beginning after Shaver’s stint as president, the company began to reach out into other areas of the United States, pushing south as far as Texas and Florida. This was also a time of great acquisition, as Lord & Taylor took over many store chains throughout the south east and Midwest, eventually accruing a total of eighty-six stores across the country as they attempted to gain national acclaim. Unfortunately, many people in those new areas were unwilling to pay the high prices Lord & Taylor set, and so thirty-two of those stores were closed in 2003 under the pretense of the store wanting to focus on their East Coast market where their core consumers were located.

Lord & Taylor began to fluctuate between renovating their brand, their shops, and their identity, and undergoing an upheaval when Federated Department Stores sold the chain to NRDC Equity Partners, LLC for $1.2 billion in 2006. Now the parent company of Lord & Taylor, NRDC spent $250 million on renovating the stores and looking for new places to build. To keep their upscale reputation, Lord & Taylor launched several new, designer lines and upgraded all their other merchandise.

The 2000s saw more expansions from the store, and today they have maintained their strong presence in the Eastern retail market, while strengthening their markets in Chicago and Detroit. They currently have fifty stores in the United States, and a successful movement of merchandise on their website lordandtaylor.com.

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