History Of TSS Stores (Times Square Stores) In NY

History Of TSS Stores (Times Square Stores) In NY

Feature Photo: Dragana Gordic / Shutterstock

History Of TSS Stores (Times Square Stores) In NY looks at what was once a discount department store chain. Chances are good that interested individuals can guess it started in New York City. However, it did grow enough to spread to other parts of the state and beyond. Sadly, Times Square Store never became one of those giant department store chains with hundreds of stores. Instead, it went bankrupt in the late 1980s when its locations were still counted in the double digits.

How Did Times Square Stores Get Started?

For those curious, George Seedman founded the first Times Square Store in Queens in 1929. Supposedly, it was still an auto supply store in those days. Still, it seems safe to say that Seedman’s discount business strategy was informed by the early phase of his company’s existence.

TSS And 1929

After all, 1929 was the year the stock market crashed on Black Tuesday. That started the Great Depression, which would plague the world for a decade. There were still people of means in that era. Even so, the general trend was a tightening of the belt because most people had to make do with less. As such, the businesses that tended to do well during the Great Depression were the ones that could adjust to the new economic realities by leaning into them rather than fighting them.

Regardless, Seedman prospered. He had one store at the start of the Great Depression. By the end, he had ten of them situated throughout the borough. Those were enough for Seedman to buy a summer home, which came complete with a couple of live-in staff members.

It wasn’t until the post-war period that Seedman turned his Times Square Stores into a discount department store chain. The curious thing is that he didn’t quite do it in the way that interested individuals might expect. Specifically, Times Square Stores didn’t start selling all of the goods we associate with department stores on its own. Instead, it leased space to vendors, which proceeded to do that for it. That would have had serious costs and benefits. On the one hand, Times Square Stores would have had to sacrifice potential revenues and partial control over its premises; on the other hand, Times Square Stores would have been able to get its new business model off of the ground while spending much less money than needed under normal circumstances. One could say it was the kind of move one would expect from a discount department store chain.

TSS Stores in the 20th Century

Times Square Stores continued to run for the next four decades. By the 1980s, it remained centered in the same state but had undergone notable changes. For instance, it went from ten stores in Queens to five in New York City, which made it clear that the borough had lost its one-time status as the company’s most important market. Instead, Times Square Stores had shifted its focus to Nassau and Suffolk Counties, which explains why most of its stores in the state were situated on Long Island. Besides these, the company had a small number of stores in Puerto Rico plus a second discount chain specializing in women’s clothing. Put together, Times Square Stores had become a notable presence in the region, which was not enough to ensure its survival in an age when true retail titans were expanding their reach at a rapid rate.

It is interesting to note that Times Square Stores still showed some dynamism as late as the early 1980s. For proof, consider how Seedman and the rest of its leadership considered an IPO in 1983. Unfortunately, the stock market wasn’t quite as confident in its prospects as its leadership. The company proposed a price of $17 to $19 a share. In response, investors offered just $12 a share, which spoke volumes about their opinions of the company’s operations. Thanks to this, the decision to offer 1.2 million shares fell through, which must have been particularly hard-hitting because the company had just spent a fair amount of money expanding its presence in Puerto Rico and picking up that second discount chain.

Serious Problems in the 1980s

By the late 1980s, Times Square Stores had run into serious problems. This can be seen in how it started making drastic moves in a desperate effort to save itself. For example, the company engaged in downsizing, presumably eliminating the less profitable parts of its operations to slash its expenses without slashing too much of its revenues in the process. Similarly, the company decided it would no longer lease space to vendors under the belief that it could be more profitable by handling those things on its own, which must have been eyebrow-raising at the time.

It is possible that some of Times Square Stores’ woes came from its core market. For context, Nassau and Suffolk Counties were some of the wealthiest in the United States at those times. As a result, discount department store chains weren’t particularly popular in the region. Something that presumably hurt the company’s sales. Whatever the case, none of Times Square Stores’ efforts saved it, as shown by how it declared bankruptcy in late 1989.

TSS Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy can be a chance for troubled companies to save themselves. However, Times Square Stores doesn’t seem to have made much of an effort in this regard, if at all. By the end, it had already gotten rid of the stores in Puerto Rico and the second discount chain. Most of its stores closed in 1989. Meanwhile, just three of them continued running until June of 1990, thus enabling them to recoup a bit more of their value. Other department store chains snapped up bits and pieces of the company’s operations, but the Times Square Stores brand itself ended then and there. As for Seedman, he lived until 1996, which was notable because he had almost made it to the age of 100.






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