Gump’s survived the San Francisco Earthquake – But not E-Commerce

157-year-old San Francisco department store Gump’s files Chapter 11

By Matthew Townsend at Bloomberg

  • Retailer, founded in 1861, struggled to evolve to e-commerce
  • Company hires liquidators while continuing to look for buyer

Gump’s Holdings LLC, the San Francisco retail landmark that survived the 1906 earthquake, filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after succumbing to the rise of online shopping and shifting consumer habits.

After years of losses, the 157-year-old Bay Area department store had been trying to find a buyer, or additional financing since May, to no avail. The closely held company and its affiliates had assets of USD 61 million and liabilities of USD 64 million, according to filings late Friday, August 3 in Nevada (USA) Bloomberg reported late last month that the retailer was on the brink.

Selling jewellery at Gumps in San Francisco (USA)

Gump’s is the latest U.S. department store operator to be hit hard by an aging customer base, expensive rents and growing competition from e-commerce. Two regional chains, Gordmans and Bon-Ton, recently filed for bankruptcy and closed their doors.

“Gump’s has been navigating the overwhelmingly difficult retail environment that has affected many retailers,” the company said in a press release dated August 3.

The company plans to ask the court to approve financing to support it during bankruptcy, according to the filing. Gump’s will keep trying to find a buyer, but it has also hired liquidators to sell off its merchandise to repay creditors.

Gump’s, which dates to 1861, evolved into a purveyor of luxury goods to cater to the winners of the California gold rush. That included scouring the globe for unique items, such as silks and jade from China and Japan.

Besides its store in San Francisco’s Union Square shopping district, the company has a direct-to-consumer division, including a website and catalogue, providing 75 % of its revenue.