Seven Younkers Stores to Close Across Iowa: What Does it Take to Survive?

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- Documents submitted to the Iowa Workforce Development Authority show half a dozen Younkers stores will be closing across the state in June.  This comes as Reuters reports Younkers’ parent company, Bon-Ton, is being auctioned off to a liquidator.

According to the most recent quarterly records Bon-Ton reported net losses of almost 45 million dollars in October of 2017. The news today caught some shoppers by surprise, but others say in the age of online shopping, it was only a matter of time.

“It's all changed now, and I'm sorry to see them all close” said Nancy Shields.

Shields says she's been shopping at Younkers a long time.  She says she's sad to see the Midwest institution go away

“Oh gosh, you know, a good 50 years…I think it's too bad, because it's been here a long time, and it was just a place where you could go and find just about everything” said Shields.

According to their website, Bon-Ton employees over 24,000 associates across their 200 stores. The Iowa Workforce Development Authority reports that 635 of the Younkers employees across the state will be looking for new jobs by June 5th.

Shields says as department stores have grown bigger and bigger, she noticed a change within the walls.

“It used to be that the helpers would come right out and you know, ask you if you'd like to try something and be very helpful, and they don't do that so much anymore” she said.

Those fighting to survive as a clothing store in the online era say you must provide top notch service if you want a chance at competing.

“A lot of personal contact, I don't know if department stores did that, they just waited for the doors to open and get to the register and provide a service at the register, not with a personal shopper situation” said Tim Sitzmann, President of Midwest Clothiers.

Sitzmann runs metro stores Mr. B, Badowers, and The Back Room.  His stores offer in-house tailoring and several staff members who know their products inside and out. He says while online retailers can compete with department stores like Younkers, to succeed, you need to offer something online retailers can’t.

“There's a lot of good things about online shopping, but we feel a personal one on one provides you with a different insight into the shopping experience” said Sitzmann.

Even though Younkers was in some ways competition to Sitzmann's business, he says he's also sad to see it go.  Sitzmann says that competition is healthy for businesses to grow.

Bon-Ton did not immediately return a request for comment.