January 4, 2009

Bargain hunters pick Steve and Barry's clean

In some areas, only the hangers are left. (They're 5 for $1.)

Steve and Barry's, the university-town apparel store with everything under $10, has now reached a new price-point.

A day or so ago, it was "Five for $10." But the shelves that formerly held $10...um, $2 tees, are empty. Totally empty. Now there are half-empty racks of tees with an even lower sale price, and tables (and the floor) piled with a mixture of this and that.

Much of it priced at "Ten for $10." The woman at right guessed she had $15 worth in her arms. Good luck finding something specific, but there's still plenty in your size. Maybe. At these prices, it's not too tight, is it? Or perhaps you'll grow into it?

Some jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts and crewnecks are three for $10... but just wait a day or so.

On second thought: better not wait. The bones of this retail store in Regency Mall were pretty much picked clean by Sunday afternoon. Tables are for sale, and were being carried out alongside the merchandise.

Employees say the store will be open until Jan. 15, but I wouldn't bet on there being much clothing left by then, unless they're bringing it in from somewhere else.

"Who?" she said.

Shoppers were standing in line Sunday afternoon with armloads of clothing, and getting change from a sawbuck. And yet, as they pawed through the remaining merchandise, they appeared as picky as ever. Those Denison t-shirts? Hofstra sweats? Racks of "Is it Hot in here or is it just YOU?" tees? Nah. But there still was enough to choose from, including wooden hangers at five for a dollar, jackets at three for $10 and fixtures for your next retail adventure.

Steve and Barry's collapse in this market has been rather quick. It opened here just four years ago, in November 2004, in a premiere position at Regency Mall: 80,000 sq. ft. once occupied by Bergner's, then Prange, then Younkers then Boston Home Store. (A pattern begins to emerge, eh, Watson?). Steve and Barry's moved last summer to a smaller corner next to JC Penney, to make room for Burlington Coat Factory. Once a fast-growing chain of 270 stores across the country, Steve and Barry's earned much of its profits, according to the Wall Street Journal, from up-front payments made by mall operators seeking to fill vacant big-box spaces. "After those payments, many of the stores are only marginally profitable," wrote a business journal in June, when Steve and Barry's went public seeking $30 million to stave off bankruptcy. Clearly, it didn't find any financing.

Shoppers left with bulging bags full of bargains.

Nor is Steve and Barry's alone. Across the corridor at Regency Mall is a huge space -- occupied until a few months ago by Linens and Things -- which is now a here-today, gone-tomorrow, cardboard-box-tables discount book store that will be gone by March. Retail analysts, looking at the disappointing holiday season just past, have predicted that as many as 14,000 retail stores may close in 2009. When I last talked to Curt Pruitt, manager of Regency Mall, in October, he said 18 retail chains had recently closed or announced they were in trouble, "and we have eight of them." The International Council of Shopping Centers said 3,000 individual stores could shutter by mid-year. KB Toys, Ann Tay­lor, Sears, Talbots and Circuit City have already announced the closures of some stores.


  1. I'm suprised in general that the mall has lasted this long. There's not much of any substance left in there, and most people I know, including myself, avoid the mall like the plague. If I have to go, it's only to Sears or JC Penney. I'd rather drive to Milwaukee to go to Southridge or Mayfair than to stick around here.

  2. downtown_racine1/04/2009 9:07 PM

    Heh Steve & Barry's gone, darn now where will folks get cheap brand new $15 beater shoes A.K.A. Starbury's ?

    I avoid the mall like the plague myself I go to Sears half a dozen times a year to the Craftsman area. I go into the mall* itself probably 4 times a year and there is never ever a shortage of shoppers and or people in there. Dead mall ? Not Regency by a long shot.
    I remember walking around Southgate in Milwaukee as it died in the mid to late 90's. Cool and weird for a couple of wayward yout's as the place was largely empty and abandoned and had a cool head shoppe. Smoking cigarettes was allowed in the common area's with large ashtrays right on top of the trash receptacles.

    * My wife forces me, I loiter in the common area while she shops at her store.

  3. I'm really dumbfounded by the comments left here. Rather drive to Milwaukee or Mayfair? Why whould I want to drive 45 minutes away to get what's already provided for me here? What about supporting the local businesses? To defend the Regency mall, I love the fact the I can drive 8 minutes from Downtown Racine for the convenience of this shopping center. It has the basics, Sears, Boston store, JC Penny and now Burlington... no offense, but the WalMart is not the fashion mecca some may perceive it to be. Please let me add that it broke my heart when Steve and Barry's took over the spot where the Hole in the Mall once stood since the day the mall opened and it kills me that shoddy business practices of these mega discount stores ruin it for the local people that work hard for an honest business and apethetic consumers with little patience for the diversity of the neighborhood (what little of that there is) would rather increase their carbon footprint to drive miles away and spend the dollars elsewhere. For those that avoid the mall like the plague and wax nostalgic for an empty and abandonded place... be careful what you wish for.

  4. I agree with Anonymous' Jan. 5 comment - come on people - let's support the local economy for Pete's Sake. If the Mall goes under then these same people will be bitching because there are no stores in Racine.

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