JCPenney plans to close its stores in Macon, Milledgeville and Dublin as part of a move to shutter 138 stores nationwide.
The company had announced Feb. 24 that it would be closing up to 140 stores, but did not identify the locations until Friday. The three midstate stores and those in Thomasville and Tifton fill out the list of Georgia locations to close, according to a statement released Friday. The store at the Houston County Galleria in Centerville is not on the list.
The company says that the closures are “part of a continuing effort to advance sustainable growth and long-term profitability,” the release said. “About 5,000 positions nationwide will be impacted by the store closures, most of which will occur in June. ... Most affected stores will begin the liquidation process on April 17.”
The Middle Georgia stores that are closing are at Macon Mall on Eisenhower Parkway, Milledgeville Mall on North Columbia and the Dublin Mall on Veterans Boulevard. About 85 people work at the Macon store, about 30 in Milledgeville and about 20 in Dubin, according to an email from JCPenney.
“It’s disappointing to see our region caught up in a national trend of these types of stores closing in the face of online sales and changing shopping trends,” said Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert. “We know Macon-Bibb attracts people from all over the region, and though this is one less option, we know there are still many other reasons for people to shop here.”
Standing outside the Macon Mall store Friday afternoon, Washington County’s Shirley Armstrong said she was surprised to learn about the pending closure. She said she shops at the store about once a month.
“I wish they would stay here longer,” Armstrong said. “I love it. I need to come here again soon.”
Driving from Macon to the JCPenney store in Houston County was not appealing to Shacoby Lauranville. She, along with her mother and aunt, enjoy shopping at the store that anchors the Macon Mall.
“I don’t want to go to (Houston County),” she said. “That’s an inconvenience to people that shop here”
On Friday afternoon, Susie Bryant came to the Macon store to find out if she could get a bracelet fixed. She lives about 20 minutes from the Dublin location but stopped by the Macon store while in town.
“I’m so sorry that Penneys is closing,” Bryant said. “It’s always been one of my favorite stores.”
Jim Hull, managing partner of Augusta-based Hull Property Group which owns the Macon Mall, said in a statement that the retailer’s decision to close the store “reflects the new realities of retail and the struggles tenants face competing with online shopping and the evolution of customer needs and taste.”
Hull said the local community must take an active part in keeping the Eisenhower corridor alive.
“The Eisenhower retail corridor is too important to Macon-Bibb County to fail,” he said. “It is much easier to stop a retail corridor from becoming blighted than to regain tenants once they are gone and blight has occurred. There must immediately be consensus built on the future not only of the mall itself but also of the entire Eisenhower retail corridor.”
Hull said the company did not want the space JCPenney currently occupies to “devolve into a second class retail offering, and it must be repurposed in a manner conducive to a first class retail corridor. Community leadership, corridor stakeholders and the mall owner must share a vision of the mall and the Eisenhower retail corridor to create an environment where owners can invest in the manner that is needed. If not, the marketplace is surely signaling an unfortunate and unforgiving future for the Eisenhower retail corridor.”
The Plano, Texas-based retailer may actually have to hire some people after the closures and some employees take an early retirement option.
“We understand that closing stores will impact the lives of many hard working associates, which is why we have decided to initiate a voluntary early retirement program for approximately 6,000 eligible associates,” Marvin Ellison, chairman and CEO of JCPenney said in a Feb. 24 news release. “By coordinating the timing of these two events, we can expect to see a net increase in hiring as the number of full-time associates expected to take advantage of the early retirement incentive will far exceed the number of full-time positions affected by the store closures.”
“We believe closing stores will also allow us to adjust our business to effectively compete against the growing threat of online retailers.”
Macy’s Inc. was one of the first major retailers last year to announce a large number of its stores would close. It closed 39 stores last year and another 68 are expected to close this year. Macy’s only Middle Georgia store is at Macon Mall.
When Penney closes, Macy’s will be the only one of six original major anchors remaining at Macon Mall after a major renovation was done in 1997 at the mall which opened in the mid-1970s. Parisian store closed in 2007 and Dillard’s closed in 2008. Belk closed in October 2012, just months after Sears announced it would close its store in 2011.
Burlington Stores in fall 2015 moved into the space at the mall formerly occupied by Sears. Burlington moved to Macon Mall from the former Westgate Mall on Pio Nono Avenue.
Staff writer Stanley Dunlap contributed to this story.