January 30, 2009
Zales closes its Regency Mall jewelry store
Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but they're going to need another place to hang out together.
One of the country's largest jewelers -- Zales -- just pulled out of Regency Mall, closing its 1,700 sq. ft store.
"It was the end of their five-year lease," said Regency Mall manager Curt Pruitt, "and they didn't renew."
Still, the usually unflappable Pruitt was surprised by what happened. Zales' last day selling merchandise was Sunday, although no "going out of business" sale was proclaimed. Just business as usual.
Then yesterday, the staff came in and hauled everything away. Well, not quite. "They had their own trademarked cabinets," Pruitt said. "Usually, a company will liquidate them, sell them, or abandon them. But Zales just destroyed them, broke them up with hammers and stuff, and put the residue into dumpsters. It was a first for me." The store sat dark today, cleaned out to the bare walls and carpet.
Zales, with 2,200 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico focused on moderately-priced jewelry, had a tough year in 2008. Two weeks ago, the chain announced that sales in the all-important November/December holiday season dropped 19.5% to $582 million, and the CEO called the period "the most difficult in memory." Wall Street didn't like that, or the resignation of Zale Corporations's CFO last week; the stock hit an all-time low of $1.14 this week, from a 52-week high of $42. It was selling this morning at $1.35 per share.
Still, there is nothing saying that all Zales stores are closing; the chain is running a major promotion that will award the winner a 2-carat diamond solitaire ring in Times Square on Valentine's Day.
Two of the mall store's employees -- out of about half a dozen -- have been hired by one of the mall's remaining four jewelers. Yes, ladies, you can still buy fine jewelry at Regency Mall: Rogers & Hollands, JB Robinson Jewelers and Shaw's Jewelers still share one intersection of the mall's corridors, and Kay Jewelers, the country's largest specialty jewelry chain with 1,400 stores in the U.S., is just down the way at the next. And let's not forget JC Penney, the country's largest seller of gold jewelry.
As for the mall itself, Pruitt says times certainly are "challenging," but overall sales in all CBL mall stores were down just 2% in 2008. "Given the economy, that's great," he said.
Other recent closures at Regency Mall include Linens and Things last fall, and Steve and Barry's and Waldenbooks earlier this month. Pruitt says he doesn't expect any more closures in the near future.