On an abruptly warm April morning on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, it’s the newly named CEO of Gracious Home who signs for a few FedEx boxes filled with store inventory. Minutes later it’s also him, Robert Morrison, who answers a knock at the locked front door after checking his watch that shows 9:57 a.m. and mutters, mostly to himself, “close enough,” before letting the customer in a few minutes from opening.
“Do you have dinnerware?” the woman asked Morrison, a 20-year Greenwich resident.
Just a few months ago, Morrison could have said yes and guided her to an expansive selection of luxury dinnerware, tucked away in Gracious Home’s 55,000 square feet of retail space laid out over a block of pricey real estate near Central Park. But on this Friday morning, standing in the bankrupt store’s remnants — a mere 3,000 square feet of selling space — Morrison kindly replied no and consulted one of his sales associates about where to direct the customer. “Probably Bed Bath and Beyond,” he ended up saying.
The business’ struggles fit a wider pattern. More than 3,500 retail stores have shuttered this year, according to a Forbes compilation. The sector appears to have a dim future, as store closings this year are set to surpass those in 2008 at the start of the last recession, according to analysts at Credit Suisse.
At Gracious Home, Morrison is drawing from a lifetime of retail executive experience and a slew of new business tactics to keep Gracious Home from joining that death count. Still, if he can’t convince investors to cough up somewhere between $2.5 million and $5 million to pay Gracious Home’s way out of bankruptcy, the store will likely close by fall, he said. “But I’m very confident,” Morrison said. “There’s a lot of talk and paper flying around, but no one has written a check yet. … There are a lot of eyes on our digital results.”
If all goes well, Morrison hopes Gracious Home’s next stop would be opening a small storefront on Greenwich Avenue.
Thriving on generosity
For much of Gracious Home’s 54-year history, it prevailed by being a one-stop shop for home goods. A 1993 New York Times profile of the store, which then occupied both…