If you have been to one of our local malls recently you will have noticed a big change — all the Boston Stores have gone out of business. The popular department store, which was established in downtown Milwaukee in 1897, and ultimately grew to form the core of the larger Bon-Ton group, filed for bankruptcy back in February. In August, the entire chain, which had corporate headquarters in Milwaukee, liquidated its merchandise and closed its doors.
But just when we all thought it was gone for good, Boston Store announced its comeback. The bankruptcy court signed off on a deal that gives a company called CSC Generation ownership of Boston Store’s intellectual property assets, including the company name, customer data and databases, and social media accounts and content. Almost immediately after the purchase was approved by the bankruptcy court, the Boston Store website came alive, and rumors of a brick and mortar renaissance were rampant.
CSC Generation claims its mission is saving companies from Amazon, and intends to save Boston Store by making some radical changes. It will focus on e-commerce, as is apparent with the relaunch of the Boston Store website, but it also says that it hopes to reopen some brick and mortar locations for the holiday season. However, these stores will be smaller and open fewer hours, just Thursday through Sunday. The stores will also offer services like personal styling and interior design, and allow customers to buy big ticket items via a new lease to own financing system.
Boston Store’s innovative comeback is getting a lot of attention because it is not the traditional return from bankruptcy. A new company is using the old name, but doing things radically different than everyone else in the department store sector. We wish more of the articles on the company’s planned innovations would highlight how going through bankruptcy made this possible.
The flexibility that bankruptcy provides is unmatched. As we have said many times, it is a tool that companies and individuals should be wary of, but should not hesitate to use if other options are limited. Our firm frequently works with businesses who are interested in using the bankruptcy process to retool and revamp.