published Friday, January 6th, 2012

Major retailers to shut down Chattanooga area storefronts

Store closing signs partially cover the windows at Talbot's in Dalton, Ga., Thursday. The store will close for good in late January.
Store closing signs partially cover the windows at Talbot's in Dalton, Ga., Thursday. The store will close for good in late January.
Photo by Tim Barber.

At least three major retailers will soon shut down Chattanooga-area storefronts.

The Bradley Square Mall Sears is slated to close in the near future, Talbots’ Dalton, Ga., store will close its doors Jan. 22 and Gap will leave a hole in Northgate Mall’s storefronts on the 23rd.

“To lose the brand, that presence of that brand at Northgate Mall, it certainly will be missed,” said Joe Janosko, Northgate’s general manager. “Gap has been a great brand all across America in all the malls. We’re sorry to see the Gap leave.”

The Hamilton Place mall Gap will stay open and could absorb some of the roughly 20 employees from the store eight miles away.

Gap Inc. owns more profitable retailers such as Banana Republic and Old Navy. Officials said they will try to offer employees jobs at their other stores.

Northgate and national Gap managers wouldn’t discuss the store closing, but Marcy Carter, general manager of the Hamilton Place location, said the goal of the closures is consolidation.

“I’m very hopeful to see a rise in traffic,” she said. “We’re down a little bit in traffic. I think online is our big competitor.”

Gap saw rising sales in 2010 but has seen consistent losses this year. The company plans to cut its flagship store numbers from 1,086 at the end of October to 950 by 2013.

These type of store closings and consolidations are typical for this time of year. The closing Gap is less a reflection on Northgate as it is on the Gap brand, Janosko said.

“It’s very much part of the life cycle of retailing,” he said. “National retailers are doing housecleaning.”

January can be prime store closing time for many retailers because it falls after Christmas, typically the busiest time of year for shops, and gets stores out of the retail game before the late-winter lull.

No mall management group likes vacancies, but the departure of Gap gives Northgate’s new owners CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., more wiggle room as they overhaul the mall.

CBL is in talks with a variety of stores, junior anchors and restaurants, according to Katie Reinsmidt, spokeswoman for the Chattanooga-based shopping center management group. Gap closings haven’t hurt the company badly, she said. Of CBL’s 159 properties, only three or four stores are closing.

“It’s the normal ebb and flow of retail,” she said.

TALBOTS AND SEARS

Dalton’s Talbots, a 4-year-old store on Walnut Avenue, is one of four closing in Georgia. The women’s clothing retailer lost $22.1 million from continuing operations last quarter. In the same period a year ago, the company was profitable, bringing in $17 million.

To counteract the losses, Talbots will close 110 stores by the end of 2013. That means layoffs for the five Dalton employees and hundreds of others across the country.

Sears is eyeing shutdowns at as many as 120 stores across the U.S.

Bradley Square Mall general manager Stacia Shahan still hasn’t been officially notified by the retail giant, but said plans are already in the works to draw more retailers to the mall-owned space. Mall officials may divide the 51,000-square-foot space into two or three fronts.

“We’ll work to fill it as fast as we can,” she said.

Sears opened with the mall 20 years ago. Its closure will put 40 people out of work.

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