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Local News

Retail closings, bankruptcies begin to take toll in Joliet

Cullinan says Joliet plan still on track

JOLIET – Retailer after retailer has announced bankruptcies, store closings and warnings about their future.

On Friday, hhgregg, the electronics retailer that has a store in Joliet, announced that it has failed to find a buyer and will begin closing all stores.

Earlier in the week, Payless ShoeSource announced bankruptcy and said it will close nearly 400 stores, including 13 in Illinois, although not in Joliet.

This year, JCPenney, Macy’s and Gander Mountain all have announced store closings, although not in Joliet.

Sears issued a notice to investors that its ability to continue doing business is in doubt.

“It’s a world being redefined,” said Steve Caton, a principal with Caton Commercial Real Estate, which sells commercial property around the Louis Joliet Mall. “We’re going to see a lot of changes.”

Many of the changes have not hit Joliet, at least not yet.

Retailers that stay in business are keeping stores open in Joliet even while closing them elsewhere, a sign of the strength of the local market.

But when companies such as
hhgregg go out of business, Joliet stores go down with it.

MC Sports is in the process of closing its store in the Louis Joliet Mall as that company shuts down. Family Christian Stores, a nonprofit retailer that also is going out of business, closed its store in the mall last week.

Rock Run Crossings

All this is happening while Joliet makes plans with a developer who wants to develop a regional retail center at Interstates 55 and 80.

Cullinan Properties is moving forward with its plan for the 265-acre Rock Run Crossings project, although the company will not make a presentation to the Joliet City Council this month as previously planned, said Anaise Berry, director of marketing.

“We don’t build these developments with just retail in mind,” Berry said. “We look at a broader concept. The plan for Rock Run Crossings is more than just retail alone.”

The plan includes hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, office space and even housing.

“It’s something that we feel would draw from Iowa, Indiana and central Illinois,” Berry said.

Still, the plan raises questions of whether Joliet could support both the Louis Joliet Mall retail area and Rock Run Crossings.

Berry’s answer is that it won’t have to, because Rock Run Crossings would be designed for a different market.

Caton agrees both areas could thrive, but they would have to be distinctly different.

Even in the current business climate, retailers are trying to get spots in Joliet near the mall, he said.

“There’s a lot of retail and restaurants that are not in the Joliet area and that could be there,” Caton said. “There’s not enough room by the mall.”

Louis Joliet Mall

Caton said his firm constantly gets calls from developers looking for the right space along Route 30 near the mall.

“There’s not a lot of room around there, but it’s a strong market,” he said.

As some stores are closing, others are opening.

Bob’s Discount Furniture, an expanding retailer, is remodeling space previously occupied by Sports Authority, another sporting goods chain that went out of business. A former Pizza Hut on Route 30 was demolished last month to make room for a strip mall.

Bath & Body Works is in the process of remodeling and expanding its store in the Louis Joliet Mall, said mall manager Eric Loula.

Loula said the mall continues to talk with prospective tenants.

“There’s one we’re talking to right now that we don’t have the space for,” he said.

No new tenants have been announced, however, for the Family Christian Store and MC Sports spaces.

As to what might happen if one or more of the mall’s department store anchors were to close, Loula only would say, “We’re always planning and discussing all future potential vacancies.”

Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said he has no doubt that Starwood Retail Partners, the company that owns Louis Joliet Mall, and other mall owners make contingency plans for the loss of their department store anchors.

“If Sears went out of business, it would leave a big hole in the mall,” Jones said. “But, I have no doubt that Starwood would transition that store into smaller businesses or restaurant space.”

The last major addition to the mall was the creation of the Cinemark movie theater, which has helped make the Louis Joliet Mall a destination place for more than just shopping.

Future of retail

Frank Liu, a business professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said retailers need to create something other than a shopping destination for consumers who can buy much of what they want online.

“We need to look at consumers,” Liu said. “What do they come to retailers for? Some people come to the mall for entertainment. Some come for a place to bring the kids. Some come to socialize.”

Liu said the United States is due for a retail shake-up because store formats have not changed much since the 1980s. In other countries, he said, stores have created places for kids to play and employed other concepts to make the outing more inviting.

“The U.S. was leading in that [retail] concept many years ago,” he said. “But if we look at retail globally, that has changed.”

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