Nearly all of Visalia Mall reopens

Nine in 10 stores have reopened since the Visalia Mall reopened its doors to shoppers on May 29

VISALIA – While public agencies have declared the arrival of the next recession, the private sector seems more optimistic about a quick economic recovery. The Visalia Mall, often a microcosm of the local economy with a cross section of niche retail, department stores and eateries, has been reopening at a rapid pace.

Last week, mall general manager Richard Feder reported that 90% of the Visalia Mall’s stores had reopened as of June 17, including the Children’s Place, Auntie Anne’s, American Eagle Outfitters and JCPenney. That’s great news for the mall, considering that it was still uncertain if JCPenney would return. The same day, the national retailer announced it was moving ahead with plans to close 137 locations and that it had initiated store closing sales at the stores including six in California. The closest store closing will be in Delano at 1228 Main St.

The Visalia store is the first California location to reopen since the company temporarily closed all 850 locations due to the coronavirus in March. JCPenney has reopened more than 150 stores in 27 states.

On June 4, J.C. Penney Co. announced it will close 154 stores in 38 states as part of the first step of its store optimization strategy. Only eight of those locations will be in California. JCPenney said its Plan for Renewal will reduce its store footprint and focus resources on its strongest stores and powerful eCommerce at jcp.com. On May 15, JCPenney entered into a restructuring support agreement with lenders holding approximately 70% of the company’s first lien debt to reduce outstanding indebtedness and strengthen its financial position. To implement the financial restructuring plan, the company filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in Texas. The company said it expects to announce additional phases of store closings in the coming weeks but it looks as if Visalia’s store may be among those “optimized” for profitability.

The Visalia Mall officially reopened on May 29 with about 25% of its stores welcoming shoppers for the first time in several months. The mall is now open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For the most up-to-date list of open retailers, please visit the mall’s website at www.visaliamall.com.

Prior to the pandemic, Feder said the mall was hovering about 96% capacity despite a dismal December for retailers across the country. The pandemic also delayed the opening of two new stores, Aerie and Green Crush, that are still planning to open sometime this year.

Aerie is a subsidiary of American Eagle Outfitters, which is also at the mall, specializing in lingerie. Last year Aerie opened 60 new stores — a mix of stand-alone stores and American Eagle-Aerie side-by-sides, bringing the total number of Aerie stores to 332. This year, the brand has plans to open about another 60. The brand’s growth includes the successful AerieReal campaign, which was launched in 2014. At the time, the campaign, which omits airbrushing of its models, featured only one “role model,” British model Iskra Lawrence. Six years later, the campaign now has 13 role models and Aerie will host its first AerieReal Summit in New York City later this month. The one-day event will include the role models, Aerie executives and about 300 members of the Aerie community, along with activations, panel discussions and musical performances. Proceeds from tickets will go toward the National Eating Disorders Association.

Green Crush is the latest store to try and capture slice of the market for fruit smoothies, vegetable and fruit juices as well as fruit salads. The store’s mission is to “introduce an innovative approach to a healthy lifestyle by becoming a more nutritious alternative.” The juicy business made its debut in the Los Angeles area in 2012 and now has 13 locations including stores in Fresno and Bakersfield. In addition to Visalia, Green Crush plans to open locations in Modesto and at the Brea Mall in Los Angeles later this year.

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