A FAO Schwarz store on Fifth Ave. in New York City, USA.
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Stores and Brands You Thought Were Dead But Aren't

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FAO Schwartz toy store
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Down But Not Quite Out

The pandemic accelerated bankruptcies among retailers in a big way, and even before that, many familiar names were hurting. But that doesn't mean your favorite stores and brands are out of the game forever. Some are attempting to get back into the business, while others sell only online or cling to life as bricks-and-mortar retailers. Still others are finding novel ways to stay relevant, like a once popular toy store partnering with Target to revive its brand.


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FAO Schwarz
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FAO Schwarz

After a tumultuous couple of decades that saw the closure of its iconic Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan (where Tom Hanks traipsed across a giant electronic piano in "Big"), FAO Schwarz is looking to bring its line of toys to a broader audience by partnering with Target. Beginning mid-October, Target stores nationwide and target.com are to begin selling more than 120 FAO Schwarz toys as part of a multiyear agreement, according to a news release. Target also plans to sell a collection of nostalgic toys priced under $25 to celebrate FAO Schwarz's 160th anniversary, including a Hot Wheels collector set, commemorative Teddy Bear, and more.


Related: Most Dangerous Toys of All Time

Century 21
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Century 21

Turns out New Yorkers' favorite place to score discounted designer duds may not be dead quite yet. Though the chain declared bankruptcy and closed all of its stores in September 2020, it just announced plans to reopen its flagship store across from the World Trade Center next spring. Though the retailer is promising a "more streamlined" shopping experience and an online shopping site, fans of the old downtown store can be reassured that there will still be four floors of men's, women's, and children's designer gear at budget-friendly prices. 


Related: How to Score at Going-Out-of-Business Sales

Sears Closing
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New Toys R Us Store
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Toys R Us

This iconic toy store broke the hearts of young and old alike when it liquidated in early 2018. The next year, it announced a comeback attempt and opened two smaller-format stores in Texas and New Jersey, but they closed after nearly 18 months. Toys R Us then tried again, and opened a 20,000-square-foot global flagship store, complete with an ice-cream parlor and a two-story slide, at New Jersey's American Dream mall. The latest incarnation is a return to brick-and-mortar locations inside Macy's stores nationwide. The Toys R Us shops are set to open in flagship Macy's locations, such as Chicago, Atlanta, and New York, in the next month, before the holiday shopping season begins.

Kmart: Extra 10% to 15% Off
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Kmart

The story of this once-proud discounter mirrors that of Sears, which is unsurprising since the chains share an owner. Once the bustling home of the blue-light special, Kmart is left with just three open stores in the U.S. (there is a handful of others in Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico), down from 2,100 in 2002. 

Pier 1 Imports
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Pier 1 Imports

One of the first major retailer bankruptcies of 2020, Pier 1 was forced to liquidate and close all of its more than 500 stores after it failed to find a buyer willing to keep any of them open. The home-goods brand did, however, eventually attract a buyer. Retail Ecommerce Ventures forked over millions to give it a go with e-commerce, which means you can still shop Pier 1 online (though those iconic papasans may be pricier than you remember).

Payless ShoeSource
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Payless ShoeSource

Payless made big waves in early 2019 when it filed for bankruptcy and said it would pull the plug on all of its roughly 2,500 U.S. locations. It was Payless' second bankruptcy in two years — but the company is still operating online and overseas. Its website launched in August 2020, and there are still 700 stores elsewhere, many of them in Central and Latin America. Payless also reopened its first U.S. store in Miami in 2021 and plans to open 300-500 stores in the U.S. by 2025.

Brookstone
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Brookstone

This much-loved purveyor of gadgets and gizmos filed for bankruptcy in 2018, a decision that led about 100 mall-based stores to close. But you still have options if you really must have that latest neck and back massager: A buyer purchased the company's more than 30 airport-based stores, many of many of which have been revamped. Brookstone also maintains a storefront online, and sells select products through Macy's and other retailers.

Radioshack
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RadioShack

It used to be that even in the smallest towns, you could count on a nearby RadioShack for an obscure cable or some cheap headphones. But in 2017, it shut down more than 1,000 remaining company-owned stores and mostly faded into obscurity. Or did it? The brand still has hundreds of authorized dealers across the country, and its products are sold in "RadioShack Express" shops inside most HobbyTown stores. Its website is also alive and kicking, selling pocket radios, batteries, and even retro RadioShack T-shirts.

Gymboree
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Gymboree

Known for all things cutesy, classic, and matchy-matchy, this beloved children's apparel retailer filed for bankruptcy at the beginning of 2019 and said it would close all of its stores. One of its major competitors, The Children's Place, soon snapped up rights to the brand, which can still be found online. The Children's Place also sells Gymboree-branded apparel at about 200 of its stores for consumers still seeking an in-store experience.

Barneys, New York City
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Barneys

In a blow to the Big Apple's well-heeled fashionistas, Barneys filed for bankruptcy in 2019, shortly after announcing that it would liquidate and close its famously luxurious Madison Avenue flagship. But the Barneys name lives on — in a store within a store at rival Saks Fifth Avenue. New owner Authentic Brands licensed the Barneys name to Saks, and shoppers can peruse Barneys-branded wares both in person and online.

The Limited
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The Limited

Once a mall stalwart, this well-known fashion retailer went bankrupt at the beginning of 2017 and closed all of its roughly 250 stores. Though it initially planned to become an e-commerce company in its own right, that plan was short-lived. Instead, southern department-store chain Belk purchased the brand and relaunched it as a private label.

Circuit City
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Circuit City

Once a formidable competitor to Best Buy, electronics and appliance retailer Circuit City declared bankruptcy in 2008 and closed all of its stores within a year. A new owner relaunched the brand online, though product offerings are slim. The chain's Canadian relative, The Source (formerly The Source by Circuit City) continues to operate 375 stores.

Linens N' Things
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Linens 'N Things

Once a worthy rival to Bed, Bath & Beyond, Linens 'N Things filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and shut down its hundreds of stores. But the company has lived on as an e-commerce retailer, and its latest owner, Retail Ecommerce Ventures, is the same company that resuscitated Pier 1 and RadioShack online. More known brands now in REV's portfolio include Modell's Sporting Goods, Dressbarn, and The Franklin Mint. The company also acquired Stein Mart in 2020.

Skymall Magazine
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SkyMall

SkyMall's iconic catalogs used to be as much a part of the in-flight experience as packs of peanuts. Each edition guaranteed at least a half-hour of head-scratching entertainment as airline passengers perused the bafflingly niche items, from floating poker tables to half-scale suits of armor. But the company went bankrupt in 2015, and though you'll no longer find that familiar flight companion in your seat-back pocket, it continues to hawk plenty of odd items online.


The Sharper Image
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The Sharper Image

Sharper Image stores disappeared after the chain filed for bankruptcy in 2008, and we miss marveling at all the kooky products we never knew we needed, from coin sorters to levitating plants to a golf club drink dispenser. But if you do any shopping at department stores, you might have noticed the brand is still alive and well under new ownership. You can pick up Sharper Image merchandise at its namesake website, or at stores, including Kohl's, JCPenney, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Bon Ton
Bon Ton by Mike Mozart (CC BY)

Bon-Ton

Department stores have had a rough go of it these days, and no chain knows that better than Bon-Ton and its subsidiaries. But Bon-Ton may yet have some life left in it. The iconic brand that operated stores including Carson's, Boston Store, Herberger's, and Elder-Beerman declared bankruptcy in 2018 and quickly liquidated. Plans have been in the works for new bricks-and-mortar locations, but the first such store, a Carson's in Illinois, did not last long.

American Apparel
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American Apparel

This sexy store that "made domestically produced clothing cool again" is a shadow of its former self. American Apparel continues to hang on as an online retailer, but very little appears to be made in the U.S., marking a major shift from the brand's heyday. Gildan, Canadian maker of utilitarian T-shirts and sweatshirts, bought the company in early 2017 after American Apparel's second bankruptcy in little more than a year. Its stores were shut down soon after.

Charlotte Russe
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Charlotte Russe

Liquidation is often the last stop on the long road of decline for any retailer, but not Charlotte Russe. The trendy women's clothing retailer was a victim of malls' increasing unpopularity, filing for bankruptcy in 2019 and liquidating shortly thereafter. But a new owner quickly purchased the brand, relaunched its website, and has since opened more than 180 new locations.

Charming Charlie
Charming Charlie by Mike Mozart (CC BY)

Charming Charlie

This popular jewelry and accessories chain was no longer living a charmed life as of mid-2019, when it announced its second bankruptcy filing in two years and said it would close all remaining shops. But the company's founder bought what remained of the company and is giving it another go.

Catherine's Plus Sizes
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Catherine's

One of the nation's best known plus-size retailers, Catherine's was dealt a blow when parent company Ascena filed for bankruptcy in 2020. Ascena closed all Catherine's stores as part of its reorganization, choosing to focus on Lane Bryant, Loft, and Ann Taylor instead. But all’s not lost for Catherine's fans. FullBeauty, a company that owns several other plus-size brands, purchased Catherine's and now operates the store online as Catherines.