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Mall management surprised by Penney's closure

Date: 1/31/2011

Jan. 31, 2011

By Chris Maza

Reminder Assistant Editor

SPRINGFIELD — The news that the JC Penney outlet store at the Eastfield Mall will close its doors came as a surprise to many, including the mall's management.

"We found out the same way everyone else did," Eastfield Mall General Manager Melinda Graulau said.

The JC Penney Company, Inc., headquartered in Plano, Texas, issued a press release on Jan. 24, stating it plans to "wind down" its catalog business, including the closure of 19 catalog outlet stores, including its Springfield location.

The measure is part of a "series of actions designed to build on [the company's] accomplishments in 2010 and allow it to focus on its highest potential growth opportunities by reducing investment in areas of the business that no longer contribute meaningfully to its financial performance."

Outlet stores, for the most part, do not carry the same merchandise as regular retail stores, such as the Holyoke Mall location. Rather, they primarily carry items found in the JC Penney catalog that are not available in a standard retail location.

"We hate to see [JC Penney] go. They have a great team that was great to work with and we wish them the best," Graulau said.

Mountain Development Corporation (MDC), which owns and manages the Eastfield Mall, does not actually own the JC Penney building.

Because MDC is not the proprietor of the property, Graulau said there is little the mall can do in the wake of JC Penney's announcement, other than talk with the owner of the space and wait.

"We are in conversations with the third party that owns the property," Graulau said. "We hope to work together to use the property to draw other retailers that may be interested in doing business on Boston Road."

Graulau said there are businesses that are looking to improve their exposure in the Springfield area that could fill the space JC Penney will vacate.

"It's always a challenge trying to replace a company like JC Penney," Graulau said. "But there are other retailers that are not represented or underrepresented that could be interested in doing business here at the Eastfield Mall."

JC Penney's did not indicate when it will begin implementing its plan — which also includes closing five retail stores, two call centers and one custom decorating fabrication facility throughout the U.S. — other than saying it "will initiate these actions over the course of 2011."

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