Gottschalks Departure to Leave Big Holes in Local Malls

April 2, 2009 12:44:19 AM PDT
Gottschalks is one of the final big attractions at Fresno's Manchester Center. Once the store closes, Fresno State Professor of Marketing, Bill Rice predicts tough times ahead for the aging mall. "What is going to draw people to go there? I mean they aren't going to go there for a toy store, or a gadget store." Rice said. And Rice says it's not likely any of the local malls will find a replacement for Gottschalks anytime soon. "I don't think that right now with the economic conditions and competitive market in Fresno I don't think someone would want to do that right now, maybe in a year or two." Rice said. Steve Geil, Director of Fresno County's Economic Development Corporation agrees the real estate left behind by Gottschalks will be hard to fill.

"You're gonna see very little expansion of retail this year. We're gonna have some empty stores, that's going to be a part of it." Geil said.

Both Geil and Rice say other retailers in the market will benefit from Gottschalks departure.

"It's going to be a real interesting chess match to see who can come up and articulate their uniqueness in the retail world to pick up those customers." Geil said.

Rice believes the customers will scatter. "People who would go and buy dresses at Gottschalks which would have a fairly good medium price line would go to Penney's. Those who were looking for what is hot this season might end up going to Macy's. Those looking for price may end up going to Target." Rice said.

Rice believes the Gottschalks biggest store at Fresno's River Park Shopping Center will be tough. But says because of its high traffic location it could make sense to see the building divided into several smaller shops.

Gottschalks was founded in Fresno more than 100 years ago. The chain operates 61 stores in six states. The company filed bankruptcy early this year. A bankruptcy judge has approved the sale of the company's assets to a group of liquidators and "going out of business" sales are expected to begin within days.

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