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A customer walks into Bergner's at 1601 E. Empire St. in Eastland Mall, Bloomington.

BLOOMINGTON — On Wednesday, the escalator at Macy's in Eastland Mall was still carrying shoppers to the store's second floor.

But on Sunday the escalator will come to a final stop and the doors of one of Bloomington's major department stores will close for a final time.

On the main floor, there are still a few racks of clothes for sale at deeply discounted prices. Upstairs, store fixtures, including tables, wall art and mannequins are on sale for $5 apiece.

It's sad news for Twin City area shoppers. The same scenario will play out soon at the J.C. Penney store, also at the mall.

But in the wake of announced closings of Macy's and J.C. Penney and Wednesday's downbeat report from Sears, Eastland Mall's owner says other mall anchors, Bergner's and Kohl's, are not going anywhere.

Bergner's, a retail tenant at Eastland since 1973, is not closing, said Stacey Keating, a spokesman for CBL & Associates Properties Inc., which owns the Bloomington mall.

Also, "Kohl's is not leaving  — the store is strong and performs very well," Keating said. Kohl's opened at the mall in 1984.

Corporate officials for both Kohl's and Bergner's could not be reached for further comment on Wednesday.

In May 2016, the Bloomington Bergner's began offering furniture and sleep collections that include bedroom, living room, dining room furniture, home entertainment and recliners. 

In posting a $63.4 million loss in 2016, Bergner's parent company, Bon-Ton Stores Inc. reported furniture and home decor were among the categories in which the company saw revenue growth last year. The company also noted online sales increased in 2016 and purchases using mobile devices doubled for the year. 

Bloomington Economic Development Coordinator Austin Grammer said diversifying product offerings is typically a good strategy for retailers.

"Like a department store, the more departments you have, the more potential opportunities you have to draw more customers into the store," said Grammer. "So when you're on that hunt for a sofa you may pick up a tie or coat or perfume."

Earlier this month, Kohl's Corp. reported a drop in fiscal fourth-quarter profit "driven by declines in brick and mortar traffic." But unlike Macy's and J.C. Penney, Kohl's isn't closing any of its more than 1,100 stores, but individual stores may be reduced in size, according to the company.

Unable to adjust to the changing shopping patterns, Penney and Macy's are closing hundreds of stores nationwide.

"The closure of Macy's and J.C. Penney presents new opportunities for Kohl's and Bergner's and all of the other small shops in the mall to gain a market share that will be up for grabs due to the closures," said Grammer.

CBL said the Macy's closing and the upcoming closure of J.C. Penney are opportunities to reuse that retail space to "recapture under-performing space and deliver a fresh new mix that drives increased traffic and sales to the entire property."

The 71,000-square-foot J.C. Penney store, which opened in November 1966 at what was then called Eastland Shopping Center, is among 138 stores will close, the retailer announced last week.

Macy's, the nation's largest department store chain, announced earlier this year it was closing 68 stores. CBL has purchased the Bloomington store for $2 million, according to property transfer records. 

The closure of the 154,000-square-foot Macy's store, open since 2006 at Eastland, will affect 55 employees. An employee count at the J.C. Penney store is not available.

There has been no announcement that the Sears store at Eastland will close, but the company said Wednesday there is "substantial doubt" that it will be able to keep its stores open.

According to a regulatory filing late Tuesday, Sears Holdings Corp. lost more than $2 billion last year. Adjusted for one-time charges, its loss was $887 million.

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Bloomington Reporter

Bloomington reporter for The Pantagraph.

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