Younkers is back, but not as the big department store chain that was once the anchor of many malls.
Younkers.com is exclusively an online retailer at this time, said CSC Generation, the Indiana-based company that recently purchased the Younkers brand name and customer information.
Long-time Younkers customers will be able to find traditional merchandise like clothes, shoes, accessories, homewares, jewelry, and other items they used to buy from stores. But they will also be able to find refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, vacuum cleaners, art, gourmet foods, and other items on the website.
CSC Generation purchased the trademarks and customer information for all Bon-Ton properties – Younkers, Bon-Ton, Bergner’s, Boston Store, Herberger’s, Carson’s and Elder Beerman.
Retail stores closed in late August after Bon-Ton filed for bankruptcy and sold its assets to a liquidation company.
CSC purchased the company’s nameplates and customer lists for $900,000. He named the new company Bon-Ton.
“The new Bon-Ton stores will continue to carry well-loved brands,” said Jordan Voloshin, president of CSC Generation, in a written response to questions from Register.
The company plans to reopen stores in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Other locations may eventually open, Voloshin said.
The new stores will be much smaller than the larger stores Bon-Ton previously operated. “Clothing inventory in our stores will be focused on special occasions – from prom to bridal,” he said.
Some Younkers markets could see a return of physical stores, “especially if sales on Younkers.com are strong,” Voloshin said.
Moving most sales online was the only way to maintain the brand’s viability, he said.
“Bon-Ton’s previous unprofitability was due to long-term leases that contractually required the company to operate huge stores in overcrowded communities,” he said. “When Bon-Ton signed many of these leases, they only competed with Sears, JC Penney and Macy’s. But once Amazon, TJ Maxx, Kohl’s, Sephora and Ulta moved in, stores that were once profitable became unprofitable as they all reduced sales.
“The new Bon-Ton is a department store tailored to the expectations of the modern shopper,” he said. “Additional services – ranging from personal styling to home decor – will be provided in-store and online, along with more flexible ways to pay via Bon-Ton’s new store card and rent-to-own service.
Continued:Name and customer information of Younkers sold for store relaunch
Younkers, and Bon-Ton in general, will likely target a different customer base than its physical stores serve, said Linda Niehm, a professor of apparel, events and hospitality management at Iowa State University.
The new company needs to recognize its loyal customer base, but more importantly, attract younger, tech-savvy shoppers who are used to the buy line, she said.
“Retail is going to be different in the future. Stores are not going to disappear, but there will be fewer,” Niehm said. “Younkers was an old, well-established and well-loved brand, and its loyal customers will first be curious to know what it’s up to online.”
Younkers need to make a big, big comeback, she said.
On the company’s website, Voloshin said Bon-Ton will once again focus on the customer. “We hope to regain our place in the community for the next century,” he said.
The company competes with many other established online companies like Amazon and Walmart, said Doreen Chung, an associate professor in the department of apparel, events and hospitality management at ISU. “They have to offer a different experience to be successful,” she said. The new company’s lease-to-own option is indicative of its desire to be different, she said.
There will still be some familiarity for customers, though: Voloshin said the new company will keep the logo and name for the time being. “We are currently talking to our loyal customers about their opinions on this subject, but in the meantime we will maintain the status quo,” he said.
Younkers operated for 162 years before it closed, with 49 stores in seven Midwestern states. There were four large Younkers stores in metro Des Moines when Bon-Ton declared bankruptcy.
The company’s flagship store in downtown Des Moines, which boasted the first “electric staircase” (an escalator) in Iowa, the Younkers Teahouse which served its iconic rare burgers and hosted hundreds of children visiting Santa Claus, closed in 2005.