An obscure tech firm, CSG Generation, has swooped in to the ashes of the retail apocalypse, purchasing bankrupt retailer Bon-Ton’s IP for $900,000. They are betting on the value of 120 years of brand building. Bon-Ton was launched in 1898 when Max and Samuel Grumbacher opened their first store in York, Pennsylvania. Bon-Ton grew to be a chain of regional department stores with revenue in the neighborhood of $2.6 billion, with the positioning of an upscale option in small towns where other retailers were Sears and J.C. Penney.
The retailer stayed very much a family business through the 1980s and 1990s, when Max S. Grumbacher was CEO running the business with the rule of carrying no debt. The company went public in 1991, Max passed away in 2006, and leadership passed to his son Tim Grumbacher, who carried on the culture of the family business but took on hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, which eventually led the retailer into bankruptcy.
CSG Generation is one part retailer, one part tech company, one part consumer finance provider, and one part investment bank that works on retail restructurings. Justin Yoshimura, CSG’s founder and CEO, says that Bon-Ton fits perfectly with his company’s ambitions, model, and customer base. “The people that never go into stores anymore and buy 90% of everything on Amazon, they would never go into a Bon-Ton,” Yoshimura told Retail Dive in an interview. “We’re using our technology to improve the lives of customers that are not being served by Amazon. Bon-Ton is exactly that—their customer list is that to a T.”
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Photo Credit: Bon-Ton