Clothing retailer rue 21 is closing its store in North Platte’s Platte River Mall, one of nearly 400 stores it will close around the country.The company, which is in tough financial straits, confirmed the closures on Saturday afternoon, the day before Easter.
“We are closing some stores,” the company said in a simple statement. “It was a difficult but necessary decision. We still have hundreds of locations across the country, and our website rue21.com, is open for business.”
The company, headquartered just north of Pittsburgh, has about 1,200 stores in 48 states in shopping malls, outlets and strip malls. It has expanded rapidly in the last 15 years, mostly in smaller cities and towns.
If the company follows through with this round of planned closures, it will cut one-third of its outlets. Nebraska stores in Gretna and Lincoln are also closing.
The company was reportedly struggling to pay its bills earlier this month, the Pittsburg Dispatch newspaper said Saturday.
The closures reflect the challenges facing many retailers as Amazon and other online shopping sites continue to grow while brick and mortar retailers suffer.
Platte River Mall Manager Cassie Condon remains optimistic about the future. She told the Bulletin that the wants and needs of consumers are changing, and retailers are adapting.
"Online retail has affected us," she said. "In communities our size, we feel the hit even harder."
Condon said many retailers are beginning to change their business tactics. Integrating technology, through apps similar to what Buckle is doing, or creating a better customer experience like AMC theater is doing with new concessions, will help retailers stay ahead of the game.
Meanwhile, leasing at the mall is currently "considerably active," Condon said. "Our team and ownership are working vigilantly to fill our spaces. I am optimistic for our future."
Among related closures, JC Penney announced in March it would close 138 stores nationwide, including North Platte’s.
Staples is looking for a buyer for the company, while the competing business supply division of Amazon is booming, according to news reports.
Payless Shoes is struggling financially and the Vanity clothing store in the mall has closed.
A bit of hope for the mall’s vitality came Friday, when a JC Penney executive told a CNBC reporter that the Penney’s stores would remain open at least one month longer than planned, due to an uptick in business in the last 30 days or so.
Rue 21 came to North Platte in 2012.
The company was formerly known as Pennsylvania Fashions Inc.
Pennsylvania Fashions Inc., went broke in 2002 but came out of bankruptcy in May 2003 as ‘rue21 Inc.’ after voluntarily reorganizing. The new company launched an aggressive expansion program that continued through the Great Recession of 2008-09 and beyond. It had about 850 stores in 2012, according to the announcement about the opening in North Platte. Today, its number of stores is about 1,200, the Pittsburg Dispatch said.
In addition to the growth of Amazon-type stores, the American economy suffers from an underlying weakness of wage stagnation, forcing shoppers to search for the best deals they can find.
This report was updated Monday, April 17.