Elder-Beerman: What’s next for Bon Ton-owned stores?


As retailers close brick-and-mortar stores nationwide, The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. has made several leadership and store portfolio changes within the past few years.

The Bon-Ton Stores, with corporate headquarters in York, Penn. and Milwaukee, Wis., operates 261 stores, which includes nine furniture galleries and four clearance centers in 25 states. Elder-Beerman, owned by Bon-Ton, has a major presence within the Dayton region.

» RELATED: New Elder-Beerman shops opening in Dayton

Here’s what you need to know about the future of Elder-Beerman and Bon-Ton Stores:

1. STORE CLOSURES

Elder-Beerman hasn’t stayed immune to the retail apocalypse. In June, Bon-Ton announced it will close its Bon-Ton store at Maine Mall in South Portland, Maine at the end of August — laying off 55 employees. Bon-Ton also announced it would close a store location at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville, Ohio in late March. That closure impacted 46 employees.

“Bon-Ton evaluates its store portfolio on an ongoing basis to determine our stores long-term viability,” said Steve Byers, executive vice president of stores for Bon-Ton. “Closing a store is never an easy decision and would like to thank the customers who have shopped with Bon-Ton as well as our store associates for their dedication and friendly customer service.”

» RELATED: Elder-Beerman adds online pick-up service

Locally, Bon-Ton closed its Elder-Beerman store in Towne Mall Galleria in Middletown in January. The company did not renew its lease, which ended on Jan. 31. That closure impacted 65 employees.

2. LEADERSHIP CHANGES

In May, Bon-Ton’s president and CEO Kathryn Bufano resigned effective on Aug. 25. Once her contract expires, the company’s current chief operating officer William Tracy will take over as president and CEO. The company also named Chad Stauffer as the new chief merchandising officer.

“I am very pleased to announce [Tracy]’s promotion to president and CEO. [Tracy] is a proven leader with more than 40 years of retail experience in the areas of operations, supply chain management and logistics for national department stores,” said Tim Grumbacher, board chairman.

3. SELLING LOCAL PRODUCTS

Elder-Beerman is also trying to lure customers in by selling locally made products in stores nationwide. Elder-Beerman opened new in-store “Close to Home” shops in Dayton that feature products from local makers and artists.

These in-store shops deliver customers a hometown shopping experience that reflects tastes and preferences of its local communities. From September through December, shop sales more than doubled company projections.

» STORE CLOSINGS: What’s really going on?

4. FISCAL CHALLENGES

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. reported poor sales again during the first quarter fiscal results for the year. Comparable store sales decreased by nearly 9 percent compared to the same time in 2016. Net loss in the first quarter was more than $57 million, compared with the net loss of $37.8 million in the first quarter of 2016.

“Our first quarter results did not meet our expectations due primarily to weak mall traffic trends, unfavorable weather and marketing challenges associated with the Easter calendar shift,” Bufano said.

5. HOLIDAY SEASON

The Bon-Ton stores will start to prepare for the major holiday retail season, which starts in late October. Last year, the company hired for approximately 13,000 seasonal positions. Bon-Ton is also looked to hire an additional 500 additional employees for its distribution centers and its e-commerce fulfillment center.

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