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Expert: Malls have to evolve to survive

(WHAM photo)

JC Penney announced on Friday it will close up to 140 stores in the coming months. There are five JC Penneys in the Rochester area.

Wilmorite, which owns the three area malls, released a statement which read, "Based on their sales performance in the market, we are hopeful none of the three JC Penney stores operating in the Rochester market will be included in the closures announced today."

Shoppers are also hopeful they won't close. "Penney's is an old store. It's been around a long time and it's too bad, and I'm sure it's the internet that's killing it," said Richard Jefferson.

"Well I know the one at least in Batavia was very small, and there's just not as much inventory as there is at some of the other bigger malls, but I like the stuff that I get there," said Liz Roth.

Economist Kent Gardner said department stores like JC Penney have been caught in the middle, "Between retail that's very fast, very cost-competitive retail like Walmart and Target on the one hand, and small, trendy, fast-paced retail boutique like stores on the upper end."

Gardner says shopping centers like the Towne Center in Webster are also drawing people away from malls.

Francine Ditomaso said that's where she prefers shopping. "I really like doing the strip malls," she said. "There's more variety and you can go here to to Kohl's or Target, and then shoot across the street."

Gardner said the fact that Wilmorite owns all three malls in our area could be an advantage, because it can develop a strategy for each mall.

"Malls may not be doomed, but malls will change," said Gardner.

Wilmorite is already making moving with Marketplace Mall, which will turn into an outlet mall at the end of this year.

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