Mall owner: Missoula's JCPenney store to close
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Mall owner: Missoula's JCPenney store to close

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Southgate Mall

JCPenney at Southgate Mall will close after 40 years of operation, according to a statement released Friday.

Washington Prime Group, which took ownership of Southgate Mall in 2018, announced that the retailer would join five other locations nationwide in closing for business by April 2020. The number of employees in Missoula was not provided in the statement.

"The Company is committed to reinvesting in Southgate Mall and maintaining its presence as the community gathering place in Missoula and the best retail destination in Montana," the statement said. 

Tim Winger, the general manger for the Southgate Mall, could not comment Friday on the reasons for the closure and did not know the number of staff who work there. However, he said plans for the site would be announced in the near future.

In 2017, the national retailer announced its stores in Helena and Sidney would close, according to an earlier story from the Associated Press. JCPenney's website notes it has Montana stores in Kalispell, Billings, Bozeman and Great Falls. (Friday evening, the Missoula store still was listed.)

JCPenney did not immediately respond to an email Friday requesting information about its stores in Montana. However, U.S.A. Today noted in a story Friday the other stores slated for closure were located in New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina. 

The retailer, whose revenues have been in a steady decline over the past decade, first took root in Missoula when James C. Penney opened a Golden Rule store at 123 E. Main St. in 1915. By the 1920s, the clothing store moved to Higgins Avenue under the name J.C. Penney Co.

It remained near the Florence Hotel until moving to the new Southgate Mall in 1979, where it remained an anchor for 40 years. 

Southgate Mall has undergone much change in recent years, as has the Missoula Midtown area. In May 2018, the mall was sold to the Washington Prime Group in what was expected to be one of the largest mall sales of the year in the Pacific Northwest. Just a few months later in August 2018, Herberger’s closed its Montana locations, including the Missoula store, following a national bankruptcy and company-wide liquidation sale.

Last February, the mall announced that construction would start to allow Dillard’s to expand into the former Herberger's space. Dillard’s already was an anchor store in the mall, and in recent years, the 44-acre property also added a nine-screen dine-in AMC Theatre, a Lucky’s Market grocery store, and other large retail tenants.

Despite the announcement of the closure of a second anchor store, Winger said the recent additions have proven to be worthwhile investments. As far as the fate of brick and mortar stores, he said shops have improved over the last few years in incorporating online shopping into their strategies. 

"As far as the shopping center goes, we’re also very focused on the experience of the shopper. Southgate’s been lucky enough to be the town center for a long time, and we want to keep it that way," he said. 

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