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Shoppers pulling for Gottschalks

Fresno-based retailer joins ranks of those facing tumultuous times
By: Gloria Young Journal Staff Writer
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Gottschalks Inc. appears in danger of going out of business, but Auburn area shoppers are hoping the store will stay open. Paperwork filed in November with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows the Fresno-based chain could run out of cash by the end of this month without some sort of help. Last month, company officials announced a $30 million deal with a Chinese company had fallen through. The retailer is reportedly still in talks with Everbright Development Overseas Ltd. and an unidentified third party, but has yet to reach an agreement. With about $600 million in annual sales, it is especially vulnerable in the economic downturn because it can’t buy goods as cheaply as larger retail chains. In Auburn, Gottschalks customers are hoping the retailer can make it through tough times. Auburn resident Tari Briscoe and a friend, Marsha Lay of Nevada City, were at the store Tuesday, looking for post-Christmas sales on dresses. “On Tuesdays they give a 15 percent discount to anyone over 55,” Briscoe said. “So I go there frequently on Tuesdays whenever I need something.” Briscoe, who moved to Auburn in 1981, has been a customer since Gottschalks took over the Town Center building from Daughtry’s. “I just like having a big department store in Auburn,” she said. “It’s really nice because we don’t have any other department stores. I would hate to see it close its door. I would have hoped they could expand because the Gottschalks I sometimes go to in Sacramento has a home-furnishings department and is just bigger.” Lay is also a fan of the over-55 discounts on Tuesdays. “I’ve shopped in Gottschalks in Capitola, Scotts Valley, the one in Pismo Beach, in Sacramento and the one in Sonora,” she said. “I’d be very unhappy if it closed because it’s one of my favorite. It would be a huge inconvenience to have to go all the way to Roseville.” Convenience is a big selling point for Lay. “I really like the idea of a department store where it is one-stop shopping,” she said. “And they have good quality clothes and big-name brands.” But she would like to see more of a variety of brands and some higher-end brands at the Auburn store. “I’m thinking (it would be nice) if they had more name brands like Karen Kane and more of the hot cotton (clothing line),” she said. “ (The Capitola store) had more Jones New York and a big Liz Claiborne section. It just seemed to have a lot bigger variety.” A company press release dated Dec. 4 reported that total sales for November decreased 15.3 percent from the previous year and that year-to-date sales were down 11.4 percent from the same period in fiscal 2007. Gottschalks operates 59 department stores and three specialty clothing stores in the West. A call to the Gottschalks Auburn store was referred to the corporate office in Fresno, which did not return the phone call Tuesday. The Associated Press contributed to this report. The Journal’s Gloria Young can be reached at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.