With the sale of The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. to a group that plans to liquidate the retailer's assets, all nine of the retailer's stores in the Greater Lehigh Valley will close.
Meanwhile, since many of the stores are in malls, it will leave mall operators scrambling to find a new tenant – which may or may not be retail.
Bon-Ton locations in the region include:
• 146 Palmer Park Mall in Palmer Township.
• 456 Main St. in Doylestown.
• 751 S. West End Blvd. in Richland Township.
• 1665 State Hill Road in Berkshire Mall, Wyomissing.
• 2524 Schoenersville Road in Westgate Mall, Bethlehem.
• 3300 Lehigh St. in the South Mall, Salisbury Township.
It was previously announced that the three other Bon-Ton stores in the region would close:
• 1200 Highway 22 East in the Phillipsburg Mall, Pohatcong Township.
• 6900 Hamilton Blvd. in Trexler Mall, Trexlertown.
• The store in Stroud Mall, Stroud Township.
It unknown how soon these stores will close or the amount of jobs lost. A Bon-Ton spokesperson did not return requests for comment.
The court order allows the bidders – Great American Group LLC, Tiger Capital Group LLC – to conduct going-out-of-business sales at Bon-Ton stores. The company, which has dual headquarters in York County and Milwaukee, operates about 240 stores in 23 states under the Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers banners.
One store, a highly visible location and longtime anchor tenant at the Berkshire Mall in Wyomissing, occupies 158,000 square feet.
Berkshire Mall LP, the owners of the mall, are looking to rejuvenate the shopping center, according to the general manager.
“The owners are looking at a redevelopment of the center,” said Ellen Smoll, general manager. “With the changes in the retail environment, you constantly have to change retail. They are working on retail transactions for future tenants.”
She said she did not know when the store would close, but said it typically takes a couple of months.
“We are disappointed they are going, but we have been in talks with [the owners in the] redevelopment of the center,” Smoll said.
DIFFICULT TO FILL
The spaces Bon-Ton occupies will be hard to fill, according to Jon Knudsen, director, advisory and transaction services for Hanna Langholz Wilson Ellis, a commercial real estate firm in Pittsburgh.
“The problem with the Bon-Tons is they tended to be located in [Class] B and C malls, and B and C malls are struggling,” Knudsen said.
These malls are those with mid-market and lower-market tenants who do not have a collection of unique, destination brands, Knudsen said.
“Thriving malls tend to have high-end collections… Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, better retailers with higher price points,” Knudsen said.
Though it is difficult to predict what tenants will fill the empty spaces vacated by Bon-Ton stores, Knudsen said the natural conversion is not necessarily going to be retail. It will be medical, educational or entertainment, such as a trampoline park, Knudsen said.
His company has clients who have Bon-Ton stores in their portfolios but none in the Greater Lehigh Valley, he said.
Knudsen’s company is part of Hanna Commercial Real Estate, which has an office in South Whitehall Township.