Bed Bath & Beyond

A customer exits Bed Bath & Beyond in Richland Township on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Signs on the windows indicate the store is closing.

Richland Township’s Bed Bath and Beyond store is apparently closing its doors.

Signs posted on the 23,000-square-foot space are advertising the move, at a time the struggling national retailer is cutting as many as 40 stores, while also seeking to refresh other ones to win back customers, the company wrote to shareholders Sept. 4.

Signs were advertising 20% off the Richland store’s inventory in an “all sales are final” liquidation.

Bed Bath and Beyond is an original tenant in the decade-old Richland Town Centre, which is home to a Walmart Supercenter, T.J. Maxx and More and Best Buy, as well as restaurants such as Panera Bread, Five Guys and Starbucks.

Bed Bath and Beyond spokeswoman Leah Cascarano did not specify when the store plans to officially close, saying the decision was made because its lease is ending.

Pennswood Commercial Realty’s Bob Varner disputed that this week, indicating the store’s lease is not expiring anytime soon.

“At this point, we’ve gotten no indication from them corporately (on their intentions),” said Varner. “We’re not at liberty to get into details ... but they are obligated to fulfill their current lease term.”

Shoppers have mixed reactions

Area residents who were shopping in the busy plaza Tuesday morning had mixed reactions to the news the store was closing – although they all said they were concerned that today’s internet shopping age is robbing the region of retailers.

“My goodness. First Sears and Bon-Ton. And now Bed Bath and Beyond, too?” said Barbara Lodolinski, a Richland Township retiree.

Lodinski said she frequently turned to the store for coffee, kitchen gadgets and other household utensils.

“And a lot of the stuff you might have trouble finding somewhere else,” she said. “I’m going to miss it.”

Nearby, Carla Karcher, of Westmont, and her daughter, Emily Tucker, of Richland, were exiting Ross Dress for Less with two bags full of buys.

They said they planned to spend part of their day shopping at Richland Town Center and The Galleria. But their list didn’t include stopping at Bed Bath and Beyond.

“Honestly, I won’t miss it,” Karcher said, noting that she preferred to buy her home goods elsewhere. “But you don’t want to see anything close.”

“Hopefully,” Tucker added, “something else will replace it.”

Gander at crossroads

Retailers across the nation are reacting to disappointing sales figures – and at least one more in this region. Gander Outdoors – has indicated store closures are likely coming nationwide.

Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC’s “The Profit” and the owner of Gander’s parent company Camping World, indicated last month that as many as 37 Gander Outdoors locations that do not sell recreational vehicles could either close, relocate or be repurposed into another store brand within his company in the months ahead if RV’s aren’t added.

Lemonis indicated negotiations remain underway on an unspecified number of properties to explore moves or RV expansions at locations such as Johnstown’s, which currently don’t carry the travel vehicles.

The Richland store has been offering 50% off a significant portion of its inventory in recent days – but there are no store closing signs and company staff there indicated they are still awaiting word on the fate of their store.

The location’s Facebook page continues offering special contests and other promotions posted by store employees.

Remaking the ‘Bed’

Over the past five years, Bed Bath and Beyond’s stock has tumbled from $75 per share to $10.

The chain’s executives acknowledged this summer that steps need to be taken to reinvigorate its stores.

“The company has not kept pace with how the customer has evolved and how consumers shop today,” interim CEO Mary Winston told analysts on a conference call in July.

The company is in the process of finding its next full-time CEO, while already setting into motion a plan that would liquidate billions in older inventory to replace it with “fresh” new brands for the holiday season.

Unfortunately, that won’t matter soon for the Greater Johnstown area, Richland Township Chairman Robert Heffelfinger said.

“It’s disappointing,” he said.“When something like this happens, it’s not just a loss for Richland, it’s a loss for the whole region.

“With online shopping taking a toll ... I think everyone needs to consider the economic impact that (brick and mortar) stores have on our communities – no matter whether it’s in Johnstown, Windber or Richland,” he said. “If we don’t support each other, we’re just going to keep seeing this kind of thing happen.”

David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5053. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst and Instagram @TDDavidHurst.

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