Bon-Ton is headed to liquidation, and more than 200 stores will be put on the chopping block as the business winds down and vacates malls across the U.S.
The department store chain, which also owns banners Carson's, Younkers and Elder-Beerman, was forced into filing for bankruptcy protection earlier this year, weighed down by a burgeoning debt load and struggling to compete online with the likes of Amazon and Walmart. It initially planned to close only about 40 locations.
The winning bidder for the retailer's assets is scheduled to be approved on Wednesday by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware, according to court documents.
A complete liquidation will leave mall owners scrambling to fill the huge gaps at their properties. Some landlords at top-tier centers welcome the opportunity to bring in more profitable tenants. But others, at less-desirable and less-trafficked malls, risk not being able to fill those locations as easily. There's also the fear that co-tenancy clauses will be triggered as Bon-Ton moves out, where existing tenants might have the opportunity to negotiate rents or terminate their leases entirely.
With dual headquarters in Milwaukee and York, Pennsylvania, Bon-Ton's stores are primarily scattered across the North and Midwest. The department store chain's banners tend to be in more rural communities, and often sharing a mall with ailing Sears.
Once the asset sale is approved by the court, Bon-Ton's stores are expected to close within the next 10 to 12 weeks. The news comes just weeks after Toys R Us started closing its more than 800 stores across the U.S., building on industry-wide turmoil.
— Reporting by Lauren Thomas. Data visualization by John Schoen.