Shoppers waited for the doors to open at Century 21’s flagship store in Lower Manhattan Thursday morning, unaware the retail chain had just filed for bankruptcy. 

“I’m really surprised," said one customer. "I feel so sad because I used to shop in the store for many years." 

“We are just here to pick up a few last minute things but I didn’t know that they were closing," said another. 

What You Need To Know

  • Century 21 Department Store filed for bankruptcy Thursday

  • The retail chain, which has 13 stores, will close all of its locations

  • Financial struggles due to online retailers and the coronavirus pandemic was worsened when its insurance companies refused to pay $175 million is loss claims

Designer brands at discounted prices, Century 21 has been a New York staple for 60 years. It grew into a chain with 13 stores. Most of them are located in New York and New Jersey but also in Pennsylvania and Florida. The retailer says it plans to shut all of its stores for good.

“All the stores are closing?" asked one shopper. “I can’t believe this. I go to the one in the Bronx. I go to the one in Queens. I go to the one here. No, I don’t want them to close.”

Brick and mortar stores had already under enormous pressure from online retailers. When the coronavirus struck, they were dealt a new financial blow. Upscale retailers Neiman-Marcus and Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy earlier in the pandemic. Century 21 says it tried to stay afloat during these hard times. It blames insurance companies for refusing to pay about $175 million dollars to cover its losses under business interruption policies.

Insurers have claimed most policies have exceptions for viruses

“My thoughts are it’s gonna be hard for any business to survive," said one shopper. 

“Everybody is filing for bankruptcy it’s unfortunate I hope things get better," said another. 

Century 21 has 1,400 employees and has been operating with limited store hours under COVID-19 guidelines, including mandatory mask wearing. Shoppers we spoke with said it’s not only the prices that kept them coming back but also the selection. 

“Robert Cavalli. It’s not too many over here so I find it here," said one shopper. 

“The prices are amazing. They have so much stuff. I bought my wedding dress here. Exactly what I was looking for I found it here. I searched everywhere Saks, Bloomingdales. I found it at Century 21," said another. 

Century 21 says it plans to have a going out of business sale at at all of its locations.