Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Dillard’s El Con now a bargain barn

• Workers say the former retail anchor will close next month. The future of the midtown property is uncertain.

NICOLE GREASON Citizen Business Writer

Dillard’s at El Con Mall has become an upscale bargain barn.

Attractive, sparkling merchandise displays have been replaced with racks and piles of deeply discounted items the store needs to get rid of before it closes early next month.

The second floor of the 114,782-square-foot store is empty. All merchandise is crammed onto the first floor. Gone are the glitzy cosmetic counters that dominated the center of the store. Only empty glass cases remain.

Clothing with Ralph Lauren, Liz Claiborne and Carole Little labels can be had for up to 75 percent off the regular cost. Prices on shoes, housewares, jewelry and accessories also have been slashed.

It’s a bonanza for bargain-hunting shoppers.

But shoppers must choose carefully. Sale items cannot be returned.

Dillard’s officials have refused to say exactly when the store will shut down for good. They also aren’t saying why the store will close or what will happen to the employees when it does.

All questions were referred to Bob Baker, Dillard’s vice president of marketing. His response to questions about the closure was ”I’ve been told nothing. I know nothing.”

However, a Dillard’s worker said that on Tuesday store management informed employees the store will close May 6.

Susan Allen, an El Con Mall spokeswoman, said the store is expected to close on that date, but possibly may stay open a few days longer. In any case, by May 9, Dillard’s will cease to exist at the mall, she said.

Despite no official word, store employees are preparing for the closure, many have been transferred to other stores, and they are telling shoppers the store will close.

”This store just isn’t doing too well. It hasn’t been making much money for a while,” a store employee said in a conversation with a shopper.

Dillard’s recently built a flagship store just a few miles away at newly renovated Park Place.

Employees who will be displaced by the store’s closure may transfer to other Dillard’s stores, she said.

According to Allen, El Con management is analyzing all possibilities for use of the Dillard’s space. She said the space could house one tenant or be divided among several.

Allen said the mall is working with the Harris McDonough Group, a Reston, Va.-based development and leasing company, on a marketing plan for the mall.

The plan should be completed within 90 days and will focus on the ”total dining, entertainment and retail experience of El Con,” she said.

”Whatever the Dillard’s space is used for, it must fit in with the overall marketing strategy for the mall,” she said.

Yesterday, Dillard’s shoppers didn’t seem too concerned about the store’s closure. They were too busy scouring the place for gotta-have treasures.

”I’ve always liked Dillard’s. I’m disappointed they’re closing, but there are some great deals here,” said a shopper as she cruised the 75-percent-off clothing racks.

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