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Saturday, April 21, 2018

Andy's Angles: Bon Ton 1854-2018

The news started leaking out Monday night, and in 24 hours it became official.  Bankrupt Bon Ton was being sold to a liquidator-- the only company that seemed interested.  No one wanted to buy the 250 store chain and keep it running.

My Tuesday morning assignment was to get shopper reaction.  After getting bounced from the Wyoming Valley Mall parking lot, we went to the store in the Midway Shopping Center in Wyoming.  Some shoppers seemed indifferent.  Most were sorry to see Bon Ton disappear.

After writing and recording the voice track for my noon story, I went inside to take a look around while photographer Erich was editing.  I hadn't been in a Bon Ton in years.  There used to be one close to me, in the comatose Mall at Steamtown, but it closed.  I don't get to the Wyoming Valley Mall as often as I once did.  I found a clean, bright, well organized, and well stocked store.  Yes, it might have been a bit tired, but there was nothing really bad that I could see.  I watched as a young, efficient, and courteous cashier took care of a difficult customer.  When I say "difficult," I don't mean the customer was mean.  She was a challenge-- coupons, several items, a new charge account, plenty of questions.  The customer was actually very nice and polite.  She was simply above and beyond the normal transaction.

More than 20,000 workers will lose their jobs when Bon Ton goes under, and that makes me sad.  I'm sure there will be a ripple effect.  When malls lose anchors, smaller stores see a decline in business and close.  Newspapers, already on thin ice, lose a big advertiser.  This is more than a department store shutting its doors.

So, why did it happen?  I consulted the home office newspaper, in York, for some insight.  Not much available.  It appears to be the standard stuff-- competition from the internet, a decline in mall traffic, America's love affair with the department store is over...

I'm not going to shed fake tears because I wasn't a steady customer.  However, the death of Bon Ton really does make me sad.