J.C. Penney closing its Sterling store

Management in talks with potential new tenants; building remodel possible

STERLING – The J.C. Penney store at Northland Mall is among 138 of the retailer’s sites set to be closed as part of the company’s nationwide downsizing plan.

J.C. Penney made the announcement Friday, but did not provide an exact closure date for the landlord. In a news release from the company, however, it did say that, with a few exceptions, all of the impacted stores are expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

Northland Mall is owned and operated by Denver-based J. Herzog & Sons, which owns enclosed and strip malls nationwide. J.C. Penney has been a tenant at Northland Mall since 1969.

Mall management said it had been made aware of the possibility of the store’s closure through conversations with the company about its future plans in Sterling.

The mall said it has been pursuing other redevelopment opportunities, and has had early discussions with new retailers.

One proposed plan would reconfigure the J.C. Penney space into three smaller spaces, ranging in size from 27,000 to 34,000 square feet. The plan also includes the possibility of building 20,000 more square feet so the three tenants would have exterior access from the parking lot.

The new strip center addition wouldn’t change access through the existing entrances to the mall. The mall and strip center would be fully integrated.

Mall management said it is is saddened by the departure of a longtime tenant that provided an array of goods and services to the community.

“J.C. Penney has been a great tenant for the mall, offering fashion clothing, home goods, appliances, accessories and a salon,” Karyn Brouilette, general manager at Northland Mall, said in a news release. “The store was a great service to the Sterling community for many years.”

The mall, however, says the new plans for the future of the mall are a source of optimism and excitement.

“While we are sad to see J.C. Penney close, we are excited about this plan to attract new stores and services to the Sterling community,” Brouilette said. “We are always focused on bringing the best mix of tenants to the mall and are working hard to bring the community some new shopping options.”

Sterling Mayor Skip Lee said he realized that J.C. Penney, like most large retailers, was planning to close stores, but he was surprised that the local store was on the list.

“I understand the general trend for retailers to focus more on the online part of the business, but I thought this was a profitable store,” Lee said. “I’m saddened for the people losing their jobs, and by the fact the community has lost an important retail option.”

The mayor said he even feels an emotional attachment to a store that provided a special relationship between staff and customers.

“J.C. Penney has also been active in the community for so many years – it’s like losing an old friend,” Lee said.

The mayor said he hopes the city can work with the mall to help fill the vacancy.

“We’ll do whatever we can to help because the mall is a critical part of the city’s business structure,” Lee said.

The company said its strategic plan, which also includes the closure of two distribution centers, is focused on putting its investment dollar in the stores that are most profitable and most easily integrated with its online business.

“We believe closing stores will allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers,” J.C. Penney CEO Marvin Ellison said in a news release.

The stores on the closure list represent about 14 percent of the company’s brick-and-mortar presence, and less than 5 percent of its total annual sales. The company said sales performance at the closing stores significantly lagged sales at the remaining stores.

In 2016, J.C. Penney booked a profit for the first time since 2010.

Some of the 5,000 affected employees will be eligible for an early retirement plan, and support services will be offered to those looking for other jobs.

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