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Macy’s to close at Springfield mall, day after Penney’s says it’s going

Macy’s announced Thursday it will close its location at the Upper Valley Mall, just one day after J.C. Penney announced it will also shutter its store at the Springfield retail center.

The back-to-back announcements from the two anchors are a blow to a mall that has served Clark County shoppers for more than 40 years, but has faced financial struggles for the past several months.

Macy’s will close this spring, affecting 79 employees, said Andrea Schwartz, the retailer’s vice president of media relations. J.C. Penney, which employs 90 people, is expected to close by early April.

Retail is rapidly changing and local officials need to rally around the mall, said Horton Hobbs, vice president of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce.

“There’s not one single thing that led to these closures at our mall,” Hobbs said. “It’s a perfect storm of change for the retail industry period. We’ve weathered the storms over the last few years but unfortunately this was one we can’t.”

The Upper Valley Mall location is one of 14 that will close nationwide, including two others in Ohio. Macy’s is also closing stores at the Kingsdale Shopping Center in Columbus and at Richmond Town Square in Richmond Heights.

Together, the 14 stores account for about $130 million in annual sales, some of which is expected to be retained in nearby stores and online sales, according to information from the company. Macy’s has a total of about 790 stores nationwide.

Macy’s owns its 156,000-square-foot location at the Upper Valley Mall and it will be offered for sale, Schwartz said. No official date has been set for the store’s final days but it’s typically eight to 12 weeks after an announcement is made, she said.

The store’s employees will be offered compensation packages, she said, and can be considered for positions at other area stores.

“It’s consumer preference where people are shopping,” Schwartz said. “Customer shopping trends really can evolve over time, whether it’s traffic patterns changing, population shifting, retail developments, they come and go. That’s when we’re required to make some difficult decisions, when the store is no longer meeting the performance requirements.”

The announcement came as a shock because Macy’s owns the space rather than leases, Clark County Commissioner John Detrick said.

“I’m surprised because they own their building, but it goes back to Internet competition and Bechtle Avenue has taken some of the zing out of the mall,” Detrick said.

The Upper Valley Mall, which opened in 1971, was already at a financial crossroads after Simon Management Associates defaulted on a $47 million loan. Wells Fargo now owns most of the property and hired Urban Retail, based in Chicago, to manage the site and attract new tenants.

Brenda LaBonte, the mall’s general manager, declined to discuss how losing two anchors will affect the mall’s ability to collect rent. But it will work harder to attract new tenants, she said.

“Moving forward, we are going to continue to do what we need to to make the mall grow, and that will include looking at alternative uses in areas that are needed in our community,” LaBonte said.

Elder-Beerman, another anchor, closed its doors in 2012 but the mall filled that space by bringing in a satellite location of the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.

Shoppers said the announcements this week were unfortunate but not unexpected.

Jim and Debbie Brown of Enon came to the Upper Valley Mall on Thursday to walk. Jim Brown pointed to the expansion of retail shopping on Bechtle Avenue as a possible reason for the stores leaving the mall.

“It took a lot of business away from here,” he said.

Both he and his wife said they remember when the mall was bustling with stores and shoppers.

“It’s always nice to be able to come to Penney’s or Macy’s, your anchor stores, so it’s sad to see those close,” Debbie Brown said.

This week’s dual announcements — along with recent closings at other area Upper Valley Pike stores like Kmart — will force local government and business officials to band together to come up with new solutions for how to market the area, said George Degenhart, planning and zoning director in German Twp., where the mall is located.

“There’s always transition but the entire nature of retail is changing out there,” he said. “If someone wants to go shopping in our community, where are they going to shop?”

The mall is in a good location and has good traffic flow, Degenhart said, but finding the right fit to draw in consumers is difficult.

Malls across the U.S. are facing similar struggles, said Hobbs, of the chamber of commerce. This week’s announcements were corporate decisions that happened to come at a bad time for the local mall, he said.

“Clearly these retailers are making beginning of year decisions that were informed off of 2014 results,” Hobbs said. “Unfortunately we’ve been hit by a couple of the waves.”

He also pointed to other factors such as increasing retail competition from other nearby malls, online shopping and changing demographics.

“We’re going to look at creative things for that mall,” Hobbs said. “We’re a resilient community and we’ll rally around it.”

Reporter Michael Cooper contributed to this story.

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