The Next Domino to Fall: Mervyn’s?

Mervyn's

Mervyn’s, a large western chain of discount clothing/housewares retailers–very similar to Kohl’s, for those of you in other parts of the country–may well be the next major bankruptcy to hit American malls:

Mervyn’s LLC may be forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as early as this month if the California department-store chain fails to persuade its suppliers to ship products for the back-to-school season, according to a published report.

Some of Mervyn’s vendors have stopped shipping to the company, with its access to financing pulled by some key lenders, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company may be forced to shut its 177 stores in seven states, the paper said.
Mervyn’s is a major mall anchor in western states, and particularly in California. A Mervyn’s bankruptcy would create a large amount of vacant real estate that would be very difficult to fill.

42 Responses to “The Next Domino to Fall: Mervyn’s?”

  1. Personally, I don’t care about Mervyns. Mervyns died in Texas c. 2006 so it’s already dead to. Sorry Californians, though. But four news articles in a row yet no mall stories! How depressing…

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  2. I meant to finish that as “dead to me”. Sorry.

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  3. Oops, I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t realize we could only post things of specific interest to Texans and ignore major news stories. We have to put more effort into making this interesting for you!

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  4. At one time Mervyn’s had stores in Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Miami & other cities that I cant recall right now. However that was when it was part of Dayton-Hudson, now Target.
    Target was bringing in so much money that one CNBC commentator remarked that Mervyn’s losses could be completely hidden by the profits that the Target division was generating.

    That is why DH is now TGT. Mean wile Mervyn’s was spun off & has struggled ever since against the likes of Kohl’s, Target & Wal-mart.

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  5. Long live Caldor!

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  6. Can you imagine a shopping center anchored by Steve & Barry’s, Mervyn’s, JC Penney and Sears? Linen N Things and Goodys Family Clothing are additional junior anchors. Sharper Image, inexplicably, is an inline tenant.

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  7. @Caldor: Sorry about that. I mean, I wasn’t emphasizing that it wasn’t in Texas, I was slightly bitter about not seeing a real mall entry in the summer in almost a month.

    Unlike S&B’s, Mervyn’s has worth. Mervyn’s needs a good suitor who wouldn’t kill the brand.

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  8. I’ve always been surprised Mervyn’s lasted this long. Dayton-Hudson(now Target Corp.) overexpanded the chain in the 80′s and early 90′s. I recall the Atlanta area stores being advertised as Mervyn’s California prior to pulling the plug on the Atlanta area stores and many of the other eastern markets that had seen Mervyn’s enter in the 80′s. The mall Atlanta Mervyn’s reminded me of the small town J.C.Penney that I grew up with in my hometown, which would have been one of the first soft line stores for Penney’s as I grew up knowing the chain. As such I enjoyed going to Mervyn’s even though it never really struck me as anything special, it just had a nostalgia feel to with store layout and the narrow escalators. Ironically, most of the Atlanta Mervyn’s became JCPenney.

    When Target Corp. spun the remaining Mervyn’s off, I almost expected the chain to be liquidated within a few years or sold to Kohl’s which was expanding in much the same way Mervyn’s had in the 80′s. I think JCPenney could make a go of Mervyn’s as a hip junior JCPenney type store that would give Kohls a run for the money, bu the brand really only has clout on the west coast.

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  9. The Mervyn’s in Lubbock (South Plains Mall) appears sad. The merchandising mix is dull. The racks are jammed in to each section.

    Sear’s, which also in the mall, looks and smells worse than Mervyn’s.

    Since you guys are hungry for mall postings, some of the inline retailers are jumping to a new strip mall area being developed in west Lubbock. Several managers said the rent was about half the mall’s rent. Store hours were cited as another reason for leaving the mall. By contract, the retailer must keep the store open and closed during mall hours even if the retailer wants to hold an early bird sale, a midnight madness sale, or close the doors at 8.

    Overall, retailing in Lubbock does not appear in great shape. Almost all of the strip malls in South Lubbock remain below capacity. Newer intersections remain vacant because no one will buy a zoned retail pad.

    The area east of campus is pulling retailers as the area goes through a major renovation. However, some strip malls in the area remain below capacity.

    Welcome, to the economic slowdown.

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  10. The band Queen put it best. “Another one bites the dust.”

    I’ll say this much. With all these chains calling it quits altogether or seriously scaling back location counts, we’ll have new material for this site. Surely all this bad news is going to put a few malls right in their coffins.

    Personally never been to a Mervyn’s, but from all I read about them online, they seem to be a Kohl’s copycat, only California-based, not Wisconsin-based, and bearing a different nameplate. Their loss won’t be missed much, except in California, but with Kohl’s making big headway in that state over the past 5 years, I’m sure those guys ate into Mervyn’s share of the pie as well.

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  11. Mervyn’s has had a difficult niche and they never really defined themselves vis a vis JCPenney, Target or mid-tier department stores like the old May chains, all of which overlapped to some extent with them. They’ve tinkered with who they might be, but it’s never really helped much.This will be bad for mall owners, but their lack of an iconic identity won’t make them be missed by many others.

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  12. There is only 1 company that could save Mervyn’s now, enter NRDC Equities. They just baught Hudson’s Bay, why not Mervyn’s for a west coast presence & prevent another chain from going under.

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  13. I work at a Fred’s store. We have gotten some of Mervyn’s clothing in the last couple of months and I’m in Tennessee, lol along way from CA. The clothes look well made though. Sorry to hear another store closing. We have a clothing chain in my area called Goody’s, al of this month they’re closing as well.

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  14. The only Mervyn’s I’ve been in, to my knowledge, is the one that was in the “Town Center at Cobb” mall in Kennesaw, GA (the one at the I-75/I-575 split). I don’t remember being very impressed by it, and seem to remember it having a cheaper feel to it than the other department stores.

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  15. In northern California, Mervyn’s has a loyal following. It started in San Lorenzo village, where the original building still sits vacant. For a long time, it was the only department store in the area where I grew up. They were liberal with their credit lending, giving me my first credit card with a $60 limit.
    Since Kohl’s has barged in the region, we now have a second Mervyn’s-like store. Kohl’s and Mervyn’s are identical on many levels, right down to the same sales and similar ads in the newspaper. You really can only differentiate the two stores through the brands they carry.
    Recently, a local mall just kicked out Mervyn’s in favor of Kohl’s. There is a perception that new is always better, which isn’t necessarily the case.
    Cerberus, the owner’s of Mervyn’s, recently bought Chrysler. It’s not like they are cash-starved. Cerberus is known for turning around failing companies. Maybe this will be their failed failure?
    I worked for a failing furniture company and what is happening to Mervyn’s right now is exactly what happened days before the furniture company filed bankruptcy. That doesn’t mean store closings, it just means protection from creditors until they sort things out.
    Scott

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  16. I’m from Canada and have been to the Mervyn’s in Spokane a few times, though I’m guess now its no longer there. I liked their store, it was always a little quieter than the other ones (Penney’s, Sears etc) and the sales people weren’t right on top of you to “help” you. Its nice to be able to shop in peace, thats one thing I hate, lol. Anyways I liked Mervyn’s a lot I found they had a good variety of stuff and well made too.

    I wish Target would com to Canada and take over Zellers (part of HBC). With NRDC/Lord and Taylor buying HBC, who knows what will happen to Zellers. It could only get better though. Zellers stores are filthy and disgusting.

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  17. “Can you imagine a shopping center anchored by Steve & Barry’s, Mervyn’s, JC Penney and Sears?”

    Mall of Cortana, Baton Rouge, Louisiana before Feb. 2006. (To be fair, there are other anchors.)

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  18. 1.) Any update is better than no update, so thanks.

    2.) With our economy, I’m not surprised that more, and more “discount” retailers are failing.

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  19. I remember shopping at the Town Center Mervyn’s. It was an okay place…kinda small…didn’t have quite the panache of Rich’s, but you still could always get decent things there. It did, though, always come off as lower on the totem pole than it could/should have been.

    Ken — I remember those narrow escalators too! Amazing what details stick in one’s mind.

    As an aside, the Town Center Mervyn’s is now a Penney’s — 5/8 of one, at least, since the home store is 1/2 mile away on the other side of I-75.

    At North Point in nearby Alpharetta, the Mervyn’s location was turned into a Parisian, which was rather interesting since the store couldn’t have been much over 60k square feet. It was veeeeeeery small, and it’s no small wonder (sorry) that Belk moved the store into the old L&T location after the Parisian purchase.

    But back to the topic at hand — I wish them the best, but like a couple of other posters have mentioned, I’m amazed they’ve lasted this long. I can’t help but fear that chapter 11 will soon transform into chapter 7… :(

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  20. quoted from above: “Can you imagine a shopping center anchored by Steve & Barry’s, Mervyn’s, JC Penney and Sears?”

    I think I sense some sarcasm here but I’m not sure, haha. Would this be a good or bad thing? Since Eaton’s in Canada folded, nearly every mall here is anchored simply by Sears and The Bay. It so boring, Sure there are other anchors you could have, but really those are the only 2 department stores here.

    Obviously now these doesn’t seem to be a chance of Mervyn’s ever coming here, not that it was likely in the first place. It’s unfortunate but I guess thats just how it goes.

    Survival of the fittest in the retail industry….the saga continues….

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  21. we need mervyns we cant lose another or we will only have macys and kohls the way were going think of how mwny malls wood be replced by wal-marts it happening dont think it ante.
    and it was kohls that copyed myervens not the other way around when i was a kid growing up in southeastern wisconson kohls was a kmart like store with junk for clothing thay started becomming what we know know as kohls in the 80′s and hit there stride after gimbles was shut down. by the way gimbels and kohls were owened by the same company at that time and thay also owned marshall fields . it was this co. that i blame fore the begining of the end for marshall fields not target thay put them and gimbles and at that time even kohls in jeperty by not investing any money in there stores and kohls servived because it was taken privet i do see them posably bying mervyns stores for thre own

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  22. Mervyn’s exited the Minneapolis market in 2004 and many of their former locations are still empty. Neiman Marcus was rumored to be filling in the void at Southdale, but no real progress appears to have been made on that front. Herberger’s was just signed early this year to fill the former Mervyn’s at Northtown after that space sat empty for nearly four years. Rosedale gave up on filling the Mervyn’s space and tore it down for a “lifestyle expansion.” JCPenney snatched up the empty Mervyn’s stores at Maplewood Mall, Eden Prairie Center, and Woodbury. The Brookdale Mervyn’s still stis vacant, even with rumors it would become a Wal-Mart.

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  23. I’ve been to plenty of Mervyn’s stores in the Atlanta, Georgia and Dallas, Texas metro-areas. The thing I remember most about Mervyn’s is that we always parked at the Mervyn’s at any mall we went to because there was ALWAYS a good spot there, even at Christmas. When you’re passing up the Sears Auto Center so you can get a better parking spot at Mervyn’s, that just can’t be good for the store.

    A lot of people are comparing it to Kohl’s but back when they were in the Atlanta area (up to the mid-90s), I always thought of them as Montgomery Ward without the hardware and large appliances. I do have to admit that our Kohl’s stores are laid out almost identically to a Mervyn’s store though. But a few other stores (Uptons comes to mind) have had that same layout.

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  24. I know what you mean about parking at a store with fewer cars. Typically, Sears is the store I seek if I’m visiting a mall in another city, since I’ve found that there are fewer cars and I can get closer to the building. If Mervyn’s was even better for that, I could see why they went out of business. I never felt that I was in a nice department store when I was in Mervyn’s. Sears doesn’t have a great “nice department store feel” either, but they sell so many things that other mall stores don’t, like quality tools, and household appliances, as well as TVs and associated equipment, that they draw in a lot of customers who aren’t typical mall shoppers. Many people who visit a mall Sears are the ones who never go into the rest of the mall, and my parents are a perfect example.

    Mervyn’s would probably have done better with free-standing stores, or stores in strip shopping centers much like where Ross, TJMaxx, Stein Mart, and Goody’s place themselves.

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  25. Someone please explain to me who the Ross Stores shopper is. I can’t find a single thing appealing about that store. I responded to another poster in the Walmart section when he asked what stores people thought would fold in the near future. Ross Stores was at the top of my list, and Restoration Hardware was a close second; terrible balance sheet, inexperienced new ownership, and they are in what I call “SKU-lock”. I elaborated more in the other section. But again, what demographic shops at Ross? And more importantly, with so many better options, why?

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  26. Trey, you’re dead-on correct that most Chicago malls have a mix of those anchors. And the more I think of it, Carson’s HAS TO BE the most common anchor of Chicago area malls, lol. Heck, they even have a location at the former site of Woodmar Mall(though it’ll soon be in a newer building once the new strip shopping center replacing that mall opens), lmao!

    Another thing I remember reading is that Harlem-Irving Plaza in Norridge acquired the former LaSalle Bank building just to the north of the mall, and is soon planning to expand the mall into that space. The owners of HIP have considered (not surprisingly!) to add another anchor store to the mall, and the rumored department store chains are both JCPenney and Macy’s. It seems like to me they’d be most likely to get Macy’s, due to the fact JCPenney already has a store at Golf Mill Mall, a few miles north. Not to mention JCPenney just underwent a renovation of that store.

    Didn’t even get into the fact that they also have stores at Stratford Square, Woodfield, and North Riverside. Harlem-Irving Plaza rumors/talk aside, I’d be pretty surprised if Mervyn’s totally goes under, especially b/c they weren’t a very low-tier retailer(i.e. Steve and Barry’s), or an upscale niche retailer(i.e. Bombay Company, Sharper Image, etc.). Of course we know the former has totally gone out of business, and the other is fighting to save itself from becoming an online-only retailer(i.e. Montgomery Ward, Service Merchandise).

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  27. And speaking of new retailers that I wouldn’t mind seeing open stores in the Chicago area, it’d be interesting if Dillard’s or Boscov’s ever expanded into the Chicago market. I seriously doubt Boscov’s would ever expand out of its regular mid-Atlantic region to open a store, and Dillard’s was recently considering opening a store in Marquette Mall in Michigan City, IN. I dunno though if Dillard’s is still considering opening in Marquette Mall, as the talk seems like they decided against doing so….

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  28. wow that sounds like the ultimate FAIL mall but really mervyn’s is/was a unit of target?, but from the article they really sound like a lower priced version of belk.

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  29. I live in the Chicago Area, too, and I wouldn’t mind seeing another department store chain come into the market. Yes, the malls are monotonous. Although there are some unique department stores in the area such as, Von Maur, Nieman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Lord and Taylor. It would be nice to see Dillard’s, Belk, or Boscov’s come to the market and compete. The more choices the better.

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  30. Wow, I totally forgot about Von Maur! (besides the fact that I’m aware Kohl’s, Nordstrom, etc. is in some malls instead)

    Speaking of them, weren’t they supposed to have been rumored to open a store at Water Tower Place(off Michigan Ave.)? I have no idea if Von Maur is still planning to open a store there, or if they scrapped their plans to do so.

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  31. Von Maur is just Von Maur. It is a one of few family owned independent department stores left. Von Maur is like a Nordstrom.

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  32. Von Maur is to the Midwest, what Boscov’s is in the mid-Atlantic: a rare family-owned department store. I don’t believe Nordstrom is a family-owned department store at all, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

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  33. Nordstrom has a unusual setup . For the first time in its history the CEO is from outside the Nordstrom family, but dispite being public the family pritty much is still incharge of things.

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  34. Macy’s at Harlem-Irving Plaza? I don’t think so. They’re already sucking gas as it is in the Chicago area with sales rumored to be at least 25% off what they were as Marshall Field’s. I’d say a JCPenney would be more likely than a Macy’s as it is pretty far from Golf Mill (other side of an expressway and a lot of surface streets), and the store would be a good replacement for the defunct, nearby Brickyard Mall (which had JCPenney and Montgomery Ward). I would also rule out Sears as they have a big store down the street at Harlem and North Aves.

    On the other hand, the Carson’s stores (as well as Von Maur, Nordstrom, and Lord & Taylor) seem to be busier since September 2006. Even with the closing of the Water Tower store, I understand Lord & Taylor is looking for more Chicagoland locations due to the upsurge in business.

    Mervyn’s always struck me as a Kohl’s/JCPenney competitor that wasn’t quite in their league. Whatever they did, Kohl’s and Penney’s could do better.

    Von Maur is a family owned store like Boscov’s, but they are aimed more at Nordstrom for merchandise selection and service. Personally, I like them. They seem to be very deliberate at where they place their stores, and grow slowly.

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  35. I’m not sure where to post this, but I’m trying to get info on The Brickyard Mall in Chicago. I found references to its closing, but I can’t find a single photo of the place anywhere on the net. When I worked in Chicago, I used to frequent that mall. I can’t believe that place is gone. Very, very strange mall, with all these different confusing split levels. But their logo is impressed in my memory.

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  36. Keep an eye on Anchor Blue, a west coast based junior retail chain, it had mad head office lay offs last month & is owned by the same investment company as Mervyns- Sun Capitol.
    Its been losing money for years & if Sun Capitol is willing to let Mervyns go, creditors are speculating that they will let this chain die too & pretty soon.

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  37. I always did like Mervyn’s and disappointed when they pulled out of Louisiana. I always thought that they gave all the malls they were located in a good balance of department stores with their mid tier offerings. And if you could not find that pair of Levis jeans at Dillard’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, or any other local department store, Mervyn’s gave you another choice to shop at. There stores were always clean and well stocked, and the smaller size of the store made it easier to get around and found what you need quicker. Right before they closed, it seemed that some of the stores were low on stock, but not that bad. And they had a lot of popular brands, like Savane(the best fitting slacks), Nike and Jockey underwear. They also had a good house wares department with good brands and prices.

    The anchor with the fewest cars depends on its visibility to the main corridor it is located and its location in the mall itself. At Mall Of Louisiana, the Sears parking lot is always full because it faces Bluebonnet Road, and the quickest access from Bluebonnet to the ring road around the mall. Sears is the middle anchor, right across from the center court with the carousel and food court. And the parking lot is elevated and you enter the store on the 2nd floor. You can walk right through the second floor and into the food court. Dillard’s to the east is always pretty full too. Macy’s is west of Sears, and faces Bluebonnet Road and I-10, but it is the emptiest lot. Even though when you’re traveling on 1-10 east or west bound, the first building of the mall that you see is Macy’s.

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  38. All i can say is saw it coming i worked at the mervyns in modesto california as the truck team supervisior last year for almost a year 2007. And i was amazed that this store and chain was still going i have 15 years in retail and the way is runs is minding boggling i was given 4 hours a day to unload a truck with a new team every day so yeah thay worked needless to say product never went out to the floor on time and sat in recieveing for so long by time any one cared to look for nay thing it all came up an clearance so where the profit? the place was so misrun i went through two store managers and countless new assistant managers that didn’t care so no real shock to hear they are failing. And seeing the modesto store still looks like it’s stuck in the early eighty’s and all you hear is that every store around then stole their ideas for sales IE: bogo and sales like that and blaming target for screwing them over during their ownership!? not likely seeing we had days when our own trucking company “forgot” to send the keys for the trailers so we couldn’t do the truck that day now we hear they can’t pay for the merch oh well is all i will say and yes i did laugh at the news of hearing about mervyns it is a piss poor retailer and a god awful place to work for nowadays, poor management, poor employee training, bad corp backup

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  39. Almost forgot if you go to this store on most days it looks like a flea market with tons of clearance racks inside and outside and tons of clearance merch just laying around in back. It really feels cheap to shop there and tp hear that they are blaming the housing market and it’s custormer base for the failure is just crap.

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  40. OK, I see I was wrong about Nordstrom, and that it still is a family-owned company.

    To respond to Brandon’s post, the reason I think Macy’s is more likely than JCPenney to go into Harlem-Irving Plaza is that they already have quite a few stores in nearby north and west suburban malls. In addition, JCPenney just finished renovating their store at Golf Mill, so that’s why I kinda doubt they want to open a store at the HIP. In addition, the nearest Macy’s to there is all the way at Old Orchard, so it wouldn’t really overlap with customers that go up to that store. But hey though, maybe the company that owns the HIP will surprise me, and still try to get JCPenney to open there. Or even better, surprise us with a store that wasn’t mentioned in rumors I read when I first heard they acquired a former LaSalle Bank branch, and announced they wanted to add a new anchor. (and FYI, I’m aware they used to operate a store at Brickyard Mall)

    CoryTJ: There was a good photo album somewhere online that had decent demolition pics of Brickyard Mall. Sadly, I’m having trouble finding it(will post the link to it later, if I can find it), but if the Dixie Square Mall forum(at I believe dixiesquare.com) was still around, the guy who created that photo album posted on that board. Anyway, they are at least profiled on DeadMalls:
    http://www.deadmalls.com/malls/brickyard_mall.html

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  41. I used to shop at Mervyn’s all the time, and I thought the Kohl’s comparison was right on target; when Kohl’s came to Dallas (in 1999, I think), I’m pretty sure that I rarely set foot in a Mervyn’s after that. It wasn’t that Mervyn’s was bad, it just seemed like Kohl’s did a better job of filling the same niche for me. The locations were more convenient as well (i.e. not tied to a mall one of its ancillary shopping areas), and when I moved within walking distance of a Kohl’s, that sealed the deal even more.

    Still sorry to see a big chain go like that.

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  42. Forever 21 might buys Mervyns. Only 4 years ago Forever 21 failed try buying Mervyns. Now the store is trying again.
    LA Times,
    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-forever4-2008oct04,0,3766542.story

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