RICHMOND, Calif. (KTVU) - J.C. Penney in Richmond opened in 1976. It’s the Hill-Top Malls largest anchor store, but slow sales and an ever-changing customer base and technology is forcing 'Penney’s' to shut its’ doors.
“Why? This is the best store! It’s better than Macy’s, and all of them. Yes, I love J.C. Penney,” said Richmond resident Betty Tall.
Richmond is one of 138 'Penney’s' stores that will liquidate in April, and close in June. It will affect 5,000-plus employees nationwide. It’s a growing trend for large brick and mortar department stores that are quickly becoming obsolete.
“Oh wow! My thoughts are that’s really a shame,” said one Hill-Top shopper.
If you need more proof just how slow sales are, just look at the mall’s empty parking lot. Besides J.C. Penney, Sears, Kmart, Macy’s and Staples are also shutting down a combined 356 stores, and The Limited is closing all of their retailers, leaving consumers with less choices.
“Actually I am kind of surprised. We moved to make it more convenient for us to shop. Now were here and Wow…everything is shutting down,” said new Richmond resident Duvonce Bean.
Shopping malls depend on large department stores like 'Penney’s' to bring business to their smaller tenants.
Hill-Top has a number of vacancies and that number will likely go up now that’s its biggest store is leaving.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Macy’s is the next one to go, and then this entire mall. And you know how that goes. Condos will be built here,” said Jean Hall a J.C. Penney shopper.
Online sellers like Amazon are eating up the malls. The e-commerce giant grossed $136 billion in 2016. And, trendier malls, like The Bay Street in Emeryville, are moving people away from the old school anchor malls. Bay Street has smaller more “hip” stores and is surrounded by big name restaurants, a movie theater and a hotel. It’s all about the experience. “I think this is so much better. You get a sunny day….and you can stroll along outdoors. It doesn’t feel so enclosed. People enjoy shopping outdoors,” said shopper Brittany Rodgers.
J.C. Penney will still operate nearly 900 stores nationwide, 14 of those here in the Bay Area. The retailer says it will expand its beauty department, home repair and plus-size clothing line.
With fewer stores they can concentrate on the more successful ones and hope to entice new shoppers.