As Bon-Ton Stores Inc. heads for liquidation, local officials are bracing for employment loss and empty tenant spaces at Elder-Beerman locations at area malls and shopping centers.
Only two bids from liquidators were submitted at the bankruptcy auction Tuesday for Bon-Ton Stores Inc., the parent company of Elder-Beerman, according to Reuters. Elder-Beerman employs hundreds in the Dayton region, with stores at multiple shopping centers and a distribution center in Fairborn.
Seeking Alpha, an investment analyst website, reported Bon-Ton CEO William Tracy sent a letter to employees late Tuesday that said the company will begin an orderly wind-down of operations following the liquidation process.
Bon-Ton executives, who hoped a buyer would turn around the future of the company, would not comment on the future of the company
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A hearing will be held on Wednesday during which Bon-Ton officials will ask the bankruptcy court to approve the sale of the company to a liquidator, according to Seeking Alpha. Stores are expected to close within 10 to 12 weeks.
Bon-Ton had been working with U.S. mall owners Washington Prime Group Inc. and Namdar Realty Group to secure a bid that would have kept open a large portion of Bon-Ton locations. It would’ve benefited the mall groups as Bon-Ton Stores are major tenants for both companies. Washington Prime owns both the Dayton Mall and the Mall at Fairfield Commons.
» RELATED: Elder-Beerman has rich history in Dayton
Chris Kershner, executive vice president of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said Bon-Ton’s liquidation is reflective of retail changes happening across the country. Despite economic planning and a diverse retail landscape, a national retailer’s demise is beyond anything local malls can salvage, he said.
“That’s pretty difficult,” he said. “It’s much greater than Dayton. Certainly losing Elder-Beerman and their presence, those jobs, will have an impact. I would say we have, as a community, already made an effort to revitalize some of our mall areas.”
Most Elder-Beerman stores are located within local malls, so closures would have a detrimental effect on multiple shopping centers. Elder-Beerman has stores in Piqua, Huber Heights, the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek, the Kettering Towne Center, among others in Ohio. The stores employ hundreds of workers in the region.
The liquidation would also impact the distribution center in Fairborn. About 96 employees work at the facility, and Bon-Ton leases the facility. The closure “could definitely have a ripple effect and an impact all the way down to small businesses” and families, Matt Owen, executive director of the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce, told this news organization in January.
“There’s no doubt that if that became a future empty site, we would work extremely hard at attracting a new business there,” Owen said.
Even before it was clear Bon-Ton was headed for liquidation, the Dayton region has already felt the blow of losing Elder-Beerman. The company sent out a 60-day notice on Friday warning of layoffs that could start June 5 for the 122 jobs at the Dayton Mall store and 330 positions at the Bon-Ton fulfillment center in West Jefferson.
Plans are already underway to re-brand the Dayton Mall and the surrounding area as the Miami Crossing District, Chris Snyder, board member with the Miami Twp.-Dayton Mall Joint Economic Development District, told this news organization last year, told this news organization last year.
The district would include 2.2 square-miles around the Dayton Mall, which already includes more than 400 businesses, 3.7 million square-feet of retail space and 200,000 square feet of restaurant space. Miami Twp. and Miamisburg adopted a master plan for the district that calls for more than $200 million to be invested which would result in new landscaping and redesigned outdoor spaces.
Around one-third of U.S. malls are projected to close in the next few years. Elder-Beerman isn’t the only retailer abruptly shutting down stores. Toys “R” Us is also in the process of liquidating all of its stores, after voluntarily filing for relief under Chapter 11, in September 2017.
Approximately 31,000 Toys “R” Us employees will ultimately be laid off due to the store closings. The retailer has locations in Miami Twp. and Beavercreek.
The company and its subsidiaries filed voluntary petitions for a court-supervised financial restructuring under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware in early February. The company’s stores also include Carson’s, Younkers, Bergner’s, Boston Store, and Herberger’s, as well as Bon-Ton.
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