Younkers stores look set to close.
The parent company of the Younkers department store chain failed to secure any bidders for its fleet of stores across the U.S. that would want to continue to operate them.
Bon-Ton Stores Inc., Younkers’ parent, most likely will liquidate and close all of its stores, including the ones in Nebraska and Iowa, according to sources familiar with the matter cited by the Reuters news service.
Bon-Ton’s sales have been declining for years, and after declaring bankruptcy earlier this year, the company struggled to find a buyer that would keep the stores open, said Ken Perkins, president of Boston-based research firm Retail Metrics.
“Unfortunately it’s just part of this ongoing saga of declining mall traffic and department stores’ inability to adapt and drive any kind of interest to get consumers into their stores,” Perkins said.
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February. An auction was held Monday. The only two bidders for the company were liquidation firms, according to the report. Liquidation firms get what they can for a company’s assets before shutting it down.
A spokesman for Bon-Ton did not respond to messages from The World-Herald on Tuesday.
Bon-Ton had been working with property owners Washington Prime Group and Namdar Realty Group to buy the company out of bankruptcy and continue operating some of the stores. Namdar and Washington Prime own malls throughout the country, including some in Nebraska and Iowa.
Bon-Ton operates two Younkers stores in Omaha, at Oak View and Westroads Malls. General Growth Properties of Chicago, which owns both malls, didn’t comment.
The Omaha stores filed a notice with the Nebraska Department of Labor earlier this month warning that a closure of the stores could be coming. Such notices are required by companies in the event of expected mass layoffs or company closings. The two stores employ 356 people, the notice said.
Bon-Ton operates several other stores in Nebraska and Iowa, including Younkers stores in Lincoln, Grand Island and Sioux City, as well as Herberger’s-branded department stores in Norfolk, Hastings, Kearney, North Platte and Scottsbluff.
Once the deal is approved by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, a liquidation firm can begin going-out-of-business sales.