After several last ditch attempts to save one of America’s oldest retailers, Bon-Ton Stores Inc. joined the ranks of companies that have succumbed to the retail apocalypse.
Bon-Ton Stores Inc. officials announced on Wednesday morning that a joint bidder, including a group of the bankrupt retail chain’s bondholders, won the auction for the company’s asset — signaling the start of the liquidation process for stores.
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Company employees were told they will lose their jobs and that all 212 Bon-Ton stores, including local Elder-Beerman locations, will close — with going-out-business sales starting imminently. Great American Group and Tiger Capital Group —and the holders of Bon-Ton’s second-lien secured notes will acquire the retailer’s inventory and certain other assets, Bon-Ton said in a statement.
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1. BANKRUPTCY HEARING A bankruptcy court hearing to approve the venture and wind down Bon-Ton operations occurred on Wednesday.
The bondholder group has wanted all Bon-Ton stores to close since the beginning of the bankruptcy process. Bon-Ton employs about 24,000 people, including hundreds in the Dayton region. The company operates roughly 250 stores in 23 states under the Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers brands.
“While we are disappointed by this outcome and tried very hard to identify bidders interested in operating the business as a going concern, we are committed to working constructively with the winning bidder to ensure an orderly wind-down of operations that minimizes the impact of this development on our associates, customers, vendors and the communities we serve,” said Bill Tracy, Bon-Ton’s CEO.
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2. SAD CUSTOMERS Some shoppers were disappointed by the closings. Now, consumers are looking for other options for their shopping. Alyssa Mitterholzer, a Centerville resident, said online shopping is killing off what’s left of traditional brick-and-mortar stores. More than 12,000 stores are expected to close in 2018 — up from roughly 9,000 in 2017, according to Cushman & Wakefield, a marketing and data analysis firm.
“I mean it’s kind of depressing, actually. I’ve been a long-time shopper at Elder Beerman,” she said.
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.
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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.
3. LOCAL IMPACT Most Elder-Beerman stores are located within local malls, so closures could 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.
Miami Valley Centre Mall officials said the closure and liquidation of all Bon-Ton stores is disappointing for the local shopping center. “As owners of the mall since 1993 we have seen many changes in retail both locally and nationally. The Mid-America Management Corporation’s commitment to the mall and the city of Piqua remains as strong as ever,” the mall group said in a statement.
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4. FAIRBORN PREPARES FOR CENTER CLOSING The liquidation will also impact the distribution center in Fairborn. About 96 employees work at the facility, and Bon-Ton leases the facility. Matt Owen, executive director of the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce, told this news organization that the liquidation wasn’t a surprise to the community.
“We’ll have some workers out of work, and it will definitely affect some families in our region,” he said. “We’re really resilient. We’ve been through this before with Delphi and GM and NCR, and we do a good job of getting our workers back to work.”
5. HISTORY OF ELDER-BEERMAN IN DAYTON Elder-Beerman has a deep-rooted presence in the Miami Valley — and it can be traced back to another store, Boston Dry Goods, in 1883. The Boston Dry Goods store was opened by Thomas Elder, William Hunter, Jr. and Russell Johnston on East Third Street in the early 1880s. It sold textiles, clothing and groceries, and it later became the Elder & Johnston Co.
In 1962, Dayton businessman Arthur Beerman, who had opened two Beermans for Bargains junior department stores in 1950, merged his store with the Elder & Johnston Co. During the 1960s the Elder-Beerman Co. opened numerous department stores in the region, including Hamilton and Richmond, Ind.
The company continued to expand, acquiring department stores in Michigan, Illinois and Kentucky. In 1993, the 50th store opened at the Mall at Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek. In 2003, Elder-Beerman was acquired by Bon-Ton Stores, Inc.
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