The Bon-Ton Stores is closing one of its five distribution centres and taking steps to clarify the branding of the stores it acquired from Saks Inc in the upper Midwest.

The department store group, based in York, Pennsylvania, has decided to convert its 130,000-square-foot Parisian location in the Fairfield Commons Mall in Beavercreek, Ohio, to the Elder-Beerman nameplate and locate women's ready-to-wear, cosmetics, shoes, fashion accessories and intimate apparel in the store.

The 150,000-square-foot Elder-Beerman store will retain its name and serve as the site for home, men's wear, children's and a 65,000-square-foot furniture gallery.

The necessary renovations will begin in April and are expected to be completed within five months.

Bon-Ton will also locate a 15,000-square-foot home store in the 144,000-square-foot Parisian Circle Centre store in Indianapolis, Indiana, and operate it under the Carson Pirie Scott name. Remodelling will begin in March and is expected to continue for four months.

Three Parisian stores in the Detroit, Michigan, market, including one scheduled to open in Partridge Creek in October, will retain the Parisian name. The other stores are in Livonia and Rochester Hills, Michigan.

Bud Bergren, president and chief executive of Bon-Ton, said the changes "will allow us to increase the productivity of the stores and enhance the shopping experience for our customers in these markets."

Bon-Ton in April will close its 124,000-square-foot distribution centre in Ankeny, Iowa, eliminating about 60 positions. Affected employees will receive severance and other outplacement benefits.

Its workload will be picked up by four remaining DCs in Whitehall, Pennsylvania; Fairborn, Ohio; Rockford, Illinois; and Green Bay, Wisconsin. Costs of the closure aren't expected to have a material effect on earnings, Bon-Ton said.

"The remaining four distribution centres have the capacity to support the stores in this geographic area as well as to expand its services to support future growth," Bergren said.

Bon-Ton operates 275 department stores and eight furniture units in 23 states, most in the north eastern quadrant of the US.

It acquired Ohio-based Elder-Beerman in 2003 and the northern department stores of Saks Inc last year. Saks's southern department stores were acquired by Belk Inc last year.
By Arnold J Karr.