HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Everything was for sale at cut-rate prices Thursday at the JCPenney in the Hamilton Mall. Every article of clothing cost $3, and mannequins were 50% off whatever mannequins typically go for.
As workers prepared for their last day Friday, “Everything must go” signs hung throughout the mostly barren department store.
Marc Catona, 57, of Port Republic, came in for the sale and got a few things, including a ladder.
“I’d rather be paying full price and keep these people with their jobs,” Catona said. “Really, I hate seeing stores close. We need people with jobs.”
Employees on Thursday directed requests for comment to management.
JCPenney in February announced it would close 18 stores, of which the Hamilton Mall location is one, after a weak holiday sales season.
Employees affected by the closings will receive separation benefits, including help finding other jobs, resume writing and interview preparation, according to a statement issued by the company at the time the closings were announced.
The closing of Sears in November and JCPenney this week leaves Macy’s as the only remaining anchor store at the Hamilton Mall, which has, like many malls, fallen victim to the increasing prevalence of online shopping. Open since 1987, the mall has had an incredibly rough past few years, its value dropping from $90.78 million in 2017 to $50 million this year, according to the township Tax Assessor’s Office.
However, even with another anchor store leaving, the mall is doing well, said Crystal Rodriguez, the mall’s marketing manager.
“Macy’s is doing phenomenal; they’re definitely not going anywhere,” Rodriguez said Friday. “We have a ton of events lined up for the summer.”
She said the fourth annual Hamilton Mall’s Got Talent competition is coming up, as well as the Police Department’s National Night Out carnival-style event, adding that “even with these big anchors leaving, we still have a ton going on.”
The largest mall in Atlantic and Cape May counties now has plenty of ground to make up as outlets and outdoor shopping malls crop up in the area.
However, the future occupants of JCPenney are out of the mall’s control, Rodriguez said, adding the retailer is in charge of finding a buyer for the building.
Even as some shoppers mourned the end of one of their go-to stores — placing blame on big-box stores like Walmart and online retailers — the deals proved irresistible.
Holly Mignogna, 59, of Galloway Township, walked through JCPenney on Thursday with an armful of clothes.
“I’m kind of sad,” said Mignogna, “kind of sad and upset because I used to shop here a lot.”
She hopes it doesn’t spell doom for the mall.
“I’ve been coming here a long time, so I hope not,” Mignogna said.
In one corner, past the myriad signs announcing the store’s imminent closing, yellow caution tape was crisscrossed over one of the store’s dressing room entrances and the remaining clothes for sale were mostly in the men’s section.
Whitney Benedetto, 33, of Somers Point, was shopping with her husband, Brad, and their two kids Thursday and had about two racks’ worth of clothes to try on.
“We shopped here all the time,” Benedetto said, adding she is worried what the future has in store for the mall of her childhood.
“The (food court) has half as many places as it used to have when I was a kid,” she said. “And now anchor stores (are) going. The new stores, H&M and whatnot, their contracts will run out eventually.”
The Associated Press and Staff Writer Molly Bilinski contributed to this report.