Macy's wins bid for 2 Gottschalks stores

Macy's won an auction Thursday for Gottschalks stores in Fresno's River Park shopping center and at Visalia Mall, positioning the national retail giant to expand in the San Joaquin Valley.

Macy's bid in a real estate auction of Gottschalks leases and property in San Francisco. The sales could be final in two weeks if a federal bankruptcy judge approves them.

As expected, Forever 21 also bid on Gottschalks stores Thursday, taking 14 locations in three states, including the Gottschalks at Modesto's Vintage Faire Mall.

Forever 21 submitted its bid in bankruptcy court this month, but Macy's interest was not widely known until Thursday.

Macy's operates more than 800 stores across the country, including about 140 Macy's and Bloomingdales stores in California.

"We're always looking for opportunities for new store locations," said Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman at Macy's headquarters in Cincinnati.

Even before the auction began, Gottschalks had in hand a $17.7 million bid from Forever 21 for 16 of its stores in California, Washington and Alaska.

Forever 21, a growing Los Angeles-based company known primarily as a retailer of women's clothes, originally included River Park and Visalia Mall in its bid, said executive vice president Larry Meyer.

"We agreed to a change to drop Visalia Mall, so Macy's is going to take that instead of us," Meyer said Thursday.

The company had earlier agreed to drop its bid for River Park as well.

Subject to court approval, Forever 21 would take over the lease for the Gottschalks store at the east end of Fresno's Fashion Fair and the building owned by Gottschalks at Hanford Mall in Hanford.

Forever 21 also is buying store locations Gottschalks owns in San Luis Obispo and Yuba City, and taking over store leases in Santa Maria, Chico, Sacramento, Bakersfield, Modesto, Davis, Riverside and Hemet as well as Yakima, Wash., and Anchorage, Alaska.

Other sites still unclear

When it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-January, Gottschalks operated 58 department stores and three specialty stores in California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Alaska and Idaho.

Bankruptcy court documents filed late Thursday indicate the properties won by Macy's and Forever 21 were the only ones bid on at the auction. It's not clear what will become of several dozen other Gottschalks locations, including stores in Oakhurst, Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis and Manchester Mall in Fresno, the corporate headquarters in north Fresno and a distribution center in Madera.

Calls and e-mails to Gottschalks Chief Executive Officer James Famalette were not returned Thursday.

The auction results remain subject to approval by the U.S. District Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. A sale hearing is set for June 10.

Thursday marked the second round of bidding for the assets of the 105-year-old company. Another auction in late March awarded Gottschalks' inventory, equipment and fixtures to a consortium of liquidators who are conducting going-out-of-business sales at all of the stores.

Gottschalks' bankruptcy filing came after months of growing losses and declining sales.

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