The Star Tribune reports that the Hibbing J.C. Penney store is among eight small town locations closing in Minnesota amid the company’s nationwide downsizing.
Other locations include: Baxter, Fairmont, Faribault, Hutchinson, Red Wing, Thief River Falls and Winona.
The inventory liquidation sales begin on April 17, according to the Star Tribune. The store will close June 18.
Earlier this year, J.C. Penney announced the closure of more than 130 stores, but didn’t identify them. Company officials said the market pressure of online retailers was forcing them to focus on higher traffic stores to remain profitable.
The closure of the Hibbing store, anchor of the woeful Irongate Mall, might not seem a huge surprise. However, it removes one of the only local stores that sells new “professional” clothing. J.C. Penney finds itself the butt of a lot of jokes about fashion, but the fact is that most Iron Rangers who work in an office or school shop their, myself included.
Hibbing’s closure also means another crisis for the Irongate Mall. The only remaining anchor store is JoAnn Fabrics, which could easily relocate and keep its customer base. Only a handful of smaller stores remain in the mall. (I wrote about the perils facing small Iron Range malls a few years ago).
This is truly an example of a national trend with local implications. Vanity stores also announced they were closing recently. Online competition struck a blow to brick-and-mortar retailers during the Christmas shopping season. For many stores the wound was fatal. Even mighty Target had one of its worst seasons in memory. Wal-Mart’s future planning seems focused on competing with Amazon, not its fellow box stores.
But on a personal note, losing the Hibbing J.C. Penney means goodbye to the place where my parents bought my first dress clothes. I bought the silk shirt I wore to my first school dance there. School clothes. Most of the clothing I wear on stage for the Great Northern Radio Show. The suit I got married in. All from J.C. Penneys.
I might be a dork. I might not subscribe to high fashion. But there are a lot more of us wandering the Iron Range than anyone realizes.