Carson’s to close department store in Columbus mall

The Carson’s store in Columbus is closing, another blow for FairOaks Mall which has seen businesses leave over the past three years as brick and mortar retail has struggled across the nation.

Bon-Ton Stores Inc., the parent of retailer Carson’s, disclosed today what stores it will be closing. The list includes the Columbus location and other Indiana stores in Indianapolis (Circle Centre Mall), Anderson, Elkhart and Marion.

Bon-Ton has partnered with a third-party liquidator, Hilco Merchant Resources, to help manage the store closing sales, according to a news release. The store closing sales are scheduled to begin on Feb. 1 and run for approximately 10 to 12 weeks, the release said.

Employees at these locations will be offered the opportunity to interview for available positions at other store locations, the release said.

Opening in 1990, the 50,000-square-foot Columbus Carson’s operated as Elder-Beerman’s at FairOaks until changing its name five years ago.

The store has served as an anchor for the mall, which has seen a string of of businesses leave.

The first FairOaks Mall anchor store to close was Kmart in April 2014. Now, the 86,500-square-feet of space on the mall’s east side is occupied by Dunham Sports.

Last year in March, JCPenney, another anchor store at the mall, closed. In April, the local Kirlin’s Hallmark closed after 27 years at the mall, about the same time The J Nicole clothing store also left.

Other former tenants include Picture This, Brendan Diamonds and Hibbett Sports.

On Monday, Bon-Ton said that it plans to close 45 stores in 2018 and could seek to restructure its debt and other obligations under the protection of bankruptcy.

Bon-Ton operates 260 department stores under several names across 24 states.

The company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it plans to close 12 of its 53 Carson’s stores. Under the plan, 16 Bon-Ton locations also would shut their doors, along with seven Younkers and six Elder-Beerman stores — plus four locations of three other brands.

The 53 Carson’s stores had combined brick and mortar sales last year of $550 million, down 11 percent from 2016.

Still, Bon-Ton suggests in the filing that it still has confidence in the name, saying it will leverage the Carson’s banner this year to rebrand 11 Bergner’s and 13 Boston Store locations as Carson’s.

The 45 stores that Bon-Ton plans to close account for about $200 million of the company’s total sales but contribute minimal earnings, Bon-Ton said in the filing. Bon-Ton expects the closings will save the company $4 million in rent costs.

In addition, Bon-Ton said at least 20 more stores in its portfolio should be put on a “watch list to monitor for signs of further deterioration.”

In November, Bon-Ton initially reported that it would close 40 stores. Bon-Ton CEO Bill Tracy said at the time that most of the closures likely would be smaller leased stores with negative cash flow.

Bon-Ton’s turnaround plan would extend through 2019, “to enhance Bon-Ton’s performance and regain ground lost due to recent challenges,” the company said. Bon-Ton could restructure its debt through out-of-court transactions, or it could resort to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

If the latter were the case, the filing would be made by Feb. 4, according to a term sheet for the restructuring included in Monday’s SEC documents.