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BLOOMINGTON — The Macy's store at Eastland Mall in Bloomington is among 68 stores the national retail chain plans to close this year.

The closure of the 154,000-square-foot store, open since 2006, will affect 55 employees. It is one of five anchors at the east-side shopping center. 

The 68 closures, announced by the retailer Wednesday, are among about 100 closings first announced in August as the company continues to grapple with competition from online shopping and discount chains. They will eliminate more than 10,000 jobs.

Of the 68 stores, 63 will be closed in early spring and two more will close midyear. Three other locations were sold or are to be sold and leased back.

CBL & Associates Properties, the company that owns Eastland Mall except for Macy's, said it expects the store to close March 31. It intends to purchase the location — and two others in Kentucky and Texas that also will be closed — from Macy's for $5 million.

The Macy's store location was added to Eastland in the 1990s by St. Louis-based Famous-Barr and later was purchased by Macy's.

CBL said the purchases will allow it to "take space that is underperforming and convert it into new retail, dining and entertainment" options. It has already had some discussions with prospective tenants. 

The closure "is unfortunate news for the employees who work at Macy’s and its many local loyal customers," said Austin Grammer, the city of Bloomington's economic development coordinator.

Grammer said the city will be working with CBL to assist with the redevelopment of the space.

"The closure of Macy’s presents many new opportunities for CBL to attract multiple new, top-tier national retailers to Eastland Mall that are not currently in Bloomington, retailers that have long wanted to be in Bloomington and retailers which have been requested by area residents for many years," Grammer added.

In light of recent redevelopment of the former Kmart and Colonial Plaza, which includes Dick’s Sporting Goods and PetSmart, across Empire Street, Grammer said he is "highly optimistic" about CBL's ability to redevelop the Macy’s space.

Nationwide, the Macy's closures are estimated to generate annual savings of about $550 million, beginning in 2017, enabling the company to invest an additional $250 million in growing the digital business and store-related growth strategies.

Macy's also plans to reorganize its structure to support its remaining stores by "reinforcing the strategy of fewer stores with better customer service," the company said in a news release. 

The retailer said sales at established stores fell 2.1 percent in November and December compared to the same period last year. 

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Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @pg_nagle

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Bloomington Reporter

Bloomington reporter for The Pantagraph.

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