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101-year-old Canadian retailer Army & Navy to close permanently

'We had hoped to reopen but the economic challenges of COVID-19 have proven insurmountable.'
Jacqui Cohen celebrated her store's 100th anniversary in 2019.
Jacqui Cohen celebrated her store's 100th anniversary in 2019.

The long-established discount Canadian retailer Army & Navy has announced it will be shutting down all of its storefronts as it struggles under the financial fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Owner of the bargain clothing store, Jacqui Cohen, had announced the temporary closure of the store in March, but in a statement Saturday said she was forced to close the store permanently. 

“We had hoped to reopen but the economic challenges of COVID-19 have proven insurmountable,” she said.

“I am full of gratitude for our staff and their years of service, our suppliers with whom we forged decades-long relationships, and of course our loyal customers who were at the heart of our business.”

This time last year, the iconic store celebrated its 100th anniversary, a company Cohen’s grandfather started in 1919. It had locations in Vancouver, New Westminster, Langley, Calgary and Edmonton.

“It is hard to comprehend,” she said. “We were looking forward to the years ahead. Now we are closing a company that was at the heart of eight communities in western Canada over its 101 years.”

In celebrating the stores 100th anniversary last year, Cohen said one of her proudest accomplishments was that she has not sold her family’s real estate holdings. Among the prized properties is the 13-storey Dominion Building, located at 207 West Hastings St., which was the tallest commercial building in the British Empire when it was completed in 1910.

In 2019, it was assessed at more than $40.2 million, or slightly more than the assessed value of her Point Grey Road home.

Cohen owned the real estate under all of her Army & Navy stores except for the one in Langley, as well five hectares of undeveloped land in Port Coquitlam in the Dominion Triangle — a portion of Nicola Avenue crosses it — as well as a home near the University of British Columbia, where her 87-year-old mother, Marlene Cohen, lives.

“I did inherit my real estate portfolio but it takes a lot of skill to not screw it up,” she said in 2019. 

Army & Navy is not the only store of its kind to buckle under the economic stress of COVID-19. The pandemic and its economic fallout has accelerated the shuttering of department stores across North America in recent weeks. In their fight for existence, rating agencies like S&P have stated department stores have some of the highest risks of defaulting on their loans

Even stronger-positioned department stores like Norstrom announced the permanent closure of 16 stores across the U.S. Friday.

— with files from Glen Korstrom