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Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Neisner Brothers, Inc. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Neisner Brothers, Inc.

List of Deals

Neisner Brothers was a “five cent to one dollar” chain of general merchandise stores organized in 1911 in Rochester, New York, by brothers Abraham and Joseph Neisner with a cash investment of $12,000. The company grew quickly. By the time it was incorporated in New York in 1916, it had five stores and annual sales of over $500,000. By 1921, the chain had six stores and sales of $1.2 million. By 1927 it had sales of $6.5 million and twenty-two stores located in Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

In December 1928 Neisner Brothers created a subsidiary, Neisner Brothers Realty Company. After incorporating this new company in Delaware, Neisner then transferred to it most of the leases and real estate of the operating company. In February 1929 Neisner acquired a substantial interest in British Home Stores, Ltd., of England, marking the first step in a broad expansion program. British Home operated a chain of three-pence-to-one-shilling stores located in London and environs. Besides F.W. Woolworth, British Home Stores was the only other chain store operating in Britain.

The year 1929 capped a decade of sensational growth for Neisner. The Neisner common stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in October of that year, and sales for 1929 were $15.1 million, up 39 percent from $10.9 million in 1928. Beginning in 1930, the effects of the Great Depression and an ambitious expansion program left their mark on the bottom line. In 1930, sales grew from $15.1 million to $16.5 million, yet net income fell from $861,639 to $175,642. In the following two years sales fell and the company experienced its first losses since at least 1916.

As the 1930s progressed, the company's fortunes once again started to turn for the better. Sales and net income returned to 1929 levels in 1934 with earnings of $831,995 from revenues of $16.6 million. Income was $1.2 million from sales of $20.9 million in 1936. Part of this improvement could be attributed to an improvement in the economy, to the company's reduced inventory, to its selling its entire interest in British Home Stores for one million dollars to an English syndicate, and to the premature death of the elder Neisner brother, Abraham, at age forty-nine, and the insurance the company received from his estate.

By 1937 Neisner was operating 108 stores and still selling merchandise in the five cent to one-dollar range. The company now employed 3,787.

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