Boston Store parent company closing 40 locations

Bon-Ton Stores announced the decision Thursday

MILWAUKEE - Another major retailer has announced store closures. Bon Ton Stores, Inc., the parent company of Boston Store and Younkers said it will close 40 locations next year. 

One of the company's headquarters is right in downtown Milwaukee. Company officials have not yet said which locations will close, saying negotiations are still ongoing with landlords. 

But the downtown store should be safe. According to our partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal, Bon-Ton Stores made a deal with the City of Milwaukee, saying it would extend its lease through 2028 and keep employment levels at 750, in exchange for a loan to fund a renovation project. 

Company officials said on a conference calls with investors Thursday morning that sales performance and profitability are main factors in which stores will close. 

"They are generally negative cash flow stores that we've talked about as well as more of our smaller stores," said Nancy Walsh, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. during the conference call. 

The closures are part of a large scale plan by the company to improve sales numbers. They're also updating the store's website and mobile app and marketing strategy. 

The company joins a growing list of major retailers that have announced store closures this year, like J.C. Penney, Sears and Macy's. 

But industry experts say while that's the focus in headlines, it's not as bad as it looks. 

"We are actually seeing more stores opening than closing with approximately 4,080 more stores in 2017," according to a spokesperson with the National Retail Federation. "In addition, 5,500 more stores are scheduled to open in 2018. At the end of the day, retail is adjusting to a channel-agnostic world. Modern retailers are embracing both online and in-store to best serve their customers."

In a news release Thursday announcing third quarter results, Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. reports net loss this quarter at $44.9 million. 

Comparable store sales also decreased 6.6 percent compared with the prior year period. 

"While results in the third quarter fell short of our expectations, we are taking more aggressive actions to fuel improved performance as well as strengthen our financial position," said President and CEO William Tracy in a news release. "We are executing with a sense of urgency as we work to enhance our merchandise assortment, drive growth in omnichannel, and implement a more focused marketing strategy to improve traffic and customer engagement."

Bon-Ton Stores Inc. operates 260 stores in the country, mainly in the Northeast, Midwest and upper Great Plains. The stores operate under the names Boston Store, Younkers, Bergner's, Carson's Elder-Beerman and Herberger's. 

There are about 30 store locations in Wisconsin. 

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