Amidst economic downturn coupled with holiday season consumerism, shoppers are wondering about the fate of their favorite shopping outlets.
Legitimate closures of national retail stores have led to unsubstantiated rumors about stores not honoring gift cards and lists of stores that are said to be closing, which include both store chains that have officially announced closures and stores that have as yet made no official statements.
The source of much of the anxiety seems to be an anonymous email that has been circulated, chain-letter style, to media outlets and customers, and has been posted on several web sites, including UrbanLegends.com. The email lists companies that allegedly informed the Security Exchange of closing plans between October 2008 and January, 2009, including Circuit City, Ann Taylor (117 stores nationwide), Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, and Catherine’s (150 stores nationwide), Eddie Bauer (27 stores with more to come after January), Cache, Talbot’s, J. Jill, Gap (85 stores), Footlocker (140 stores with more after January), Wickes Furniture, Levitz, Bombay Company, Pep Boys, Lowe’s, J.C. Penney, some Macy’s stores, and a number of national and regional chains.
How accurate is this list? If one Googles the websites of each business, one finds that some chains are indeed closing some of their outlets, although not all of the chains are listing the individual stores. Local retailers are remaining officially mum about closures.
Circuit City has made an official statement (investor.circuitcity.com) announcing a plan to close 155 stores due to its “deteriorating liquidity position” as well as reducing future store openings. The list of store closures can be found on the website and includes branches in Compton, Industry, Pomona, and Thousand Oaks, but not the West Los Angeles branch that is nearest to Santa Monica.
What about local outlets of other stores on the list? Since local store managers refused to comment, the Mirror contacted corporate offices of some of the chains that operate outlets on the Westside.
A spokesperson for Gap, Inc. which also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic stores, told the Mirror that although an email sent to media outlets in May 2008 announced the impending closures of 85 stores, no list of specific closures has been made public at this time. She added that Gap gift cards will not expire and will still be accepted at all outlets that are open.
Ann Taylor stores (with an outlet at Westside Pavilion in West Los Angeles) has refuted the information in the email, according to a November 25 Reuters report. A spokesperson for the chain did not return the Mirror’s phone call.
While Macy’s is on the list of stores said to be closing branches, the Macy’s store at the now-under-redevelopment Santa Monica Place will not be closing, but will be converted to a branch of Bloomingdale’s, this according to a September 10, 2008, announcement from Macerich Corporation, which operates Santa Monica Place. (Bloomingdale’s is owned by the same company as Macy’s.) Macerich Executive Vice President for Real Estate Randy Brant says that the change to Bloomingdale’s reflects the taste of local shoppers “who consistently voiced their interest in a different, more fashion-forward, shopping experience at Santa Monica Place.”
It appears that, for the time being, Santa Monica and Westside branches of popular retail clothing and electronics outlets are weathering the economic storm. The best policy to take for the holiday shopping season would seem to be to proceed, buy, and use gift cards. Any changes that are to come will be announced when the parent companies are ready.