Bonita Lakes JCPenney set to close

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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Meridian's JCPenney is on a list of 138 stores set to close. The list was released by the company Friday morning.

The president of the company that owns Bonita Lakes Mall, Rockstep Capital, says it knew Meridian was a troubled store for JCPenney and this does not come as a surprise at all.

President Andy Weiner went on to say Rockstep Capital is looking for a replacement tenant that will draw more traffic.

JCPenney announced in February that it had plans to "advance sustainable growth and long-term profitability". Weiner says Rockstep Capital has been through this before.

“We have replaced Penney’s in other properties around the country that would simply draw more traffic,” Weiner says.

Weiner says this move will present new opportunities for Bonita Lakes Mall to grow. He says the foot traffic for the Meridian JCPenney has been down.

“Penney’s just does not draw the traffic that it used to draw,” Weiner says.

Meridian’s JCPenney is one of the 138 stores set to close. This will affect roughly 5,000 employees nationwide. According to the news release, most affected stores will begin the Liquidation process on April 17.

“We are very optomistic about this opportunity to redevelop the Penney space into something that has a more stable tenant mix,” Weiner says.

Weiner says he remains optimistic and committed to getting a new store in to the JCPenney location. As for the current employees he says it’s unfortunate. Some employees who qualify will have the opportunity to transfer, according to JCPenney. Weiner says there might be opportunity at the mall.

“We hope so. A lot of the tenants are looking for quality employees, so there should be some opportunities at the mall,” Weiner says.

Four other stores in Mississippi are scheduled to be closed. They are Columbus, Corinth, Greenville, and Oxford.

JCPenney says the company is seeking to cut costs and improve profitability.

Stores remaining open are in Biloxi, Flowood, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Laurel, McComb, Ridgeland, Starkville, Southaven and Tupelo.

Like other department stores, J.C. Penney Co. is hurting as more people shop online instead of heading to the mall. The closures are part of the company's plan announced in February to focus on its best-performing stores.

Liquidation sales will start at stores next month, and most of them will be closed by mid-June. About 5,000 jobs nationwide will be cut. The closings will leave J.C. Penney with about 900 stores.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.