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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Outlet to close; Marshalls' sign goes up
Comings and goings at Liberty Fair Mall
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JC’s 5 Star Outlet (left) is closing its Liberty Fair Mall store (above) and 14 others in the chain. The Marshalls sign went up Monday on the chain’s new store at Liberty Fair Mall. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Liberty Fair Mall is losing its second anchor tenant in a year as a new one is preparing to open.

JC’s 5 Star Outlet is closing its 15 stores nationwide. The store at the mall on Commonwealth Boulevard in Martinsville will close when the others close, according to Todd Hutchins of Paul Werth Associates, a public relations firm representing the retailer.

No date has been set, but Hutchins said the stores probably will not go out of business until after Christmas.

Coles Hull, marketing analyst for Liberty Fair’s owner, the Hull Storey Gibson Companies, said the firm expects the mall not to suffer in the long term as a result of losing the outlet. Plans are being developed to rejuvenate the mall.

JC’s 5 Star Outlet stores are closing due to declining sales, Hutchins said, adding “it just wasn’t profitable to keep them open any longer.” He had no other information about the chain’s financial situation, he said.

“After exploring all the alternatives, we could no longer incur the losses resulting from the continued operation of the outlet stores,” said Glen Gammons, the chain’s chief executive officer, in a news release.

Carol Morris, manager of the local store, referred questions to Hutchins.

The Martinsville store now has 31 employees. Hutchins said full-time staff members will receive severance packages based on their lengths of service.

The local JC’s 5 Star Outlet originally was a JCPenney department store, one of four department stores — along with Belk, Sears and Walmart — at Liberty Fair when it opened in 1989.

Belk still is there. Sears closed late last year after the retailer did not come to terms on a new lease. Walmart left years ago for a larger location about a mile away.

The JCPenney store became a JCPenney Outlet Store more than a decade ago. Morris did not know exactly when; she did not work there at the time.

In October 2011, SB Acquisitions acquired the 15 Penney outlets from the J.C. Penney Co. Inc. after the latter decided to exit its outlet business.

An SB Acquisitions executive confirmed at the time that the “JC” referenced the relationship with the J.C. Penney Co. However, JC’s 5 Start Outlet stores also sell closeout merchandise of other retailers.

Hutchins said the decision to close the outlets was made by Gammons and other executives of the outlet store chain, not SB Acquisitions executives.

Along with the inventory liquidation, JC’s 5 Star Outlet will sell fixtures and equipment in its stores, the release stated.

Marshalls, a national off-price department store chain, has announced it will open a store at Liberty Fair later this month. Renovations are underway to a space next to Kroger, and the chain recently held a job fair to recruit staff.

Carrie Garfield, public relations supervisor for Marshalls’ owner, The TJX Companies, could not be reached for an update on progress in establishing the store.

Future plans for the mall, which has many vacant storefronts, especially in one wing, could include demolishing part of it or turning it into a traditional “strip mall” type of shopping center, Hull Storey Gibson officials have said.

No decision along either of those lines has been made yet, Hull said.

On Tuesday afternoon, a sheet of plastic covered part of the largely vacant hall between the former location of a frozen yogurt parlor and the storefront that Marshalls will occupy. A nearby seating area was roped off.

Hull said to her understanding that the plastic sheeting and the barrier to the seating area are due to the renovations underway for Marshalls.

Referring to the mall losing JC’s 5 Star Outlet, she said “tenants come and go. That is the natural cycle of retail” as consumers’ buying habits change and fashion and product trends evolve.

Hull Storey Gibson continues to talk with retailers about the possibility of opening in Liberty Fair. Hull said she did not know how far along talks with any prospective stores are, but the firm usually does not disclose any prospects until leases for space in the mall have been signed.

Leasing agents with the firm are optimistic that Liberty Fair eventually will attract new stores that will draw more shoppers, Hull said.

She mentioned that along with Marshalls coming, Kroger is remodeling and adding a gas station as part of a $4 million investment.

The new store, remodeled supermarket and new “fuel center” — as Kroger calls it — “will be a big draw” in terms of attracting more customers to the mall, Hull predicted.


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