Top 10 Oldest U.S. Retailers

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Top 10 Oldest U.S. Retailers

By Joe Skorupa - 08/19/2008

In one of the toughest economic climates in recent memory, it is important to note that many well run companies have survived far worse. These survivors deserve special recognition for their ability to run smart businesses and satisfy customers in all economic conditions for more than 100 years.. 

Retail's oldest survivors have succeeded by developing an enduring brand, giving customers what they want, and adapting to changing conditions. They have also avoided piling up excessive debt, over expanding their store base, and dodged the recent wave of consolidations and retail store closings.

Here is our list of the top-10 oldest retail chains that have been through it all - and have managed to find the winning recipe for longevity and retail success.

1. Brooks Brothers – 1818

On April 7, 1818, Henry Sands Brooks opened H. & D.H. Brooks & Co. The company is now the oldest men's clothier in the U.S. and one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating businesses. In 1870, Brooks' four sons inherited the family business and renamed it Brooks Brothers. The merchant is famous for introducing ready-to-wear men’s suits to American customers. It is now owned by the privately held Retail Brand Alliance (renamed The Brooks Brothers Group), and currently operates 210 stores in the U.S. and 70 in other countries
2. Lord & Taylor – 1826

Samuel Lord and George Washington Taylor founded the store in 1826 to sell specialty women’s apparel. It is now the oldest mid- to high-range department store chain in the United States. Noted as an innovator over many decades, Lord & Taylor was the first store to present dramatic Christmas windows filled with holiday displays rather than merchandise. Today, it is owned by Hudson Bay Company (HBC) and operates 45 stores in nine states.
3. Kiehl’s – 1851
The precursor to the original Kiehl Pharmacy, the Brunswick Apotheke, opened in the East Village of New York in 1851 at the corner of Third Avenue and 13th Street. In 1894 apprentice John Kiel purchased the drug store and renamed it Kiehl’s Pharmacy. In 1921 Irving Morse bought the pharmacy from retiring John Kiehl and a family member blends “Love Oil,” which was the original formula for Kiehl’s famous musk oil. Today Kiehl’s is owned by L’Orleal Group and has more than 250 stores worldwide plus more than 1,000 other stores selling its luxury skin care products.
4. Macy's – 1858

Macy's was founded by Rowland Hussey Macy, who moved to New York City in 1858 and established R.H Macy Dry Goods. From the very beginning, Macy's logo has included a star, which comes from a tattoo Macy got as a teenager working on a Nantucket whaling ship. Today, Macy’s is the nation’s largest department store chain with more than 700 stores and one of the largest retailers in the country. It has also become an icon in popular culture and media, largely due to its famous Macy’s Day Parade, which combines both a Thanksgiving and Christmas theme into a nationally televised extravaganza.