San Francisco retail icon in going-out-of-business sale

BY Marianne Wilson

Time is running out for a 157-year specialty department store retailer that some say failed to change with the times.

Joint venture partners Gordon Brothers and Hilco Merchant Resources on Friday announced the start of going-out-of-business sales at Gump’s, located in San Francisco’s Union Square. Discounts are also being offered on the retailer’s online and and catalog merchandise.

Gump’s, which dates back to 1861, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on August 3. The company has been looking to sell its business either in whole or in part, with no success to date.

Gump’s is one of the longest-operating gifts, jewelry and luxury home furnishing retailers in the United States. It sells luxury gifts, jewelry, apparel, artful objects and home décor at its store and also through its website and catalog.

Helen Bulwik, a retail consultant and former Gump’s board member, blamed Gump’s outdated merchandise for its struggles.

“They have focused on a much older customer,” Bulwik told The San Francisco Chronicle. “That makes it very difficult as opposed to evolving with current home furnishings trends. That has hurt them for many years…. I’m not so sure anybody under the age of 50 has set foot in Gump’s at this point, which is unfortunate.”

In the same report, William Noall of Garman Turner Gordon LLP, Gump’s bankruptcy lawyer, said that Gum’s main issue was broadening its customer base with additional merchandise that would appeal to a broader demographic than its core audience.

“That involves risk and takes capital, which the company simply didn’t have,” he said.


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