Gottschalks Prepares for Liquidation Sales

April 2, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Liquidators now control all the inventory at Gottschalks stores, but shoppers shouldn't expect great bargains as a result.The liquidating companies won't change prices until Friday, but retail experts say those changes probably won't be for the better.

The last days of Gottschalks have officially begun, but sales are not signs of the liquidation. These are the leftover Gottschalks sales and when liquidators change price, retail experts say deals could be hard to find.

"These aren't the prices that may have been at Gottschalks a week ago," said Doug Broten of the Better Business Bureau. "They can set whatever price they want."

The company unloading Gottschalks' merchandise did the same at Circuit City and Mervyn's. Shoppers at those stores saw prices go up initially and didn't start seeing the great deals they expected until the shelves were nearly empty.

"Usually, the last week or two of the liquidation sale, you can get a pretty good deal, but your selection may or may not be there" said Broten.

The liquidation sales will keep store employees working until the inventory is gone. That's not the case at the corporate office, where 300 employees are getting the ax Friday. For many, it's the end of decades with the same employer.

Darlene Takanishi joined the Gottschalks team as a waitress at the Fulton Mall store in 1977. When Joe Levy spotted her abilities as a teenager, he changed her path from pre-med to retail and started her on the road to becoming a vice president of the company.

"I can't thank him enough for a wonderful career here," said Takanishi. "Joe Levy and the company have just been wonderful."

Takanishi says she's been through a lot of emotions over more than three decades with Gottschalks, but mostly happiness. A little fear set in as the company's sales got weaker over the last two years, but hope came back when Gottschalks was one of only a few big retailers to report a sales increase this January.

"We were so close, yet so far," she said. "We just about turned the corner, but we didn't have enough time."

Takanishi says employees are all keeping in touch and planning regular meetings on Mondays.

As for the stores, they'll go on the auction block in May. Many of the buildings could stay empty for a while, but at River Park, the developer is hoping to have another big retailer in that space in time for Christmas shopping.

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