Greater City Providence

PBN: J.C. Penney store closing at Providence Place Mall


The J.C. Penney store at the Providence Place Mall is among a number of underperforming stores that the company is closing across the country, according to media reports.

The Providence Place mall store is the only Rhode Island J.C. Penney store affected; the store at the Warwick Mall will remain open, as will the store at the Franklin Shopping Plaza in Westerly.

Other reports have said that while no other Rhode Island stores are closing, several on the Massachusetts side of our metro area are.

I find this to be bad news as it is really convenient for me to walk or RIPTA to the mall and purchase affordable items that I need at J.C. Penney, things that are generally more affordable, and about the same quality as at Macy’s. I’d have a much longer bus ride or have to pay for a Zipcar to get to another such retailer in the area.

I really hope that Providence Place can find a similar tenant for the space. People seem to really want a Target, but I’d be happy with a Marshall’s or TJMaxx.

Jef Nickerson

Jef is Greater City Providence's co-founder, editor, and publisher. He grew up on Cape Cod and lived in Boston; Portland, Maine; and New York before settling in Providence. In addition to urbanism, Jef is interested in art, design, and ice cream. Please feel free to contact Jef if you have any question or comments about Greater City Providence.


  • Target would not be a good fit for the mall. Targets work well in single, or double story retail complexes with accessible (storefront, free) parking. Middle-brow regional shopping centers are currently in a die-off, but luxury destination malls remain strong. Is Tiffany’s or Brooks Brothers going to want to operate next to a Target? I say go all in for Bloomies, but be willing to settle for a Dillard’s.

  • Macy’s could be the next store to leave–I read an article today about how they are closing and consolidating a lot of stores around the country (what a surprise–the mall down here has TWO Macy’s in it) and coming up with an “outlet” type of store, like TJ Maxx.

    It would be a shame, though if after all this, if PP Mall became a bunch of discount stores. While I do not dispute for a second the need for places like Target (which I do not happen to like) or Marshall’s to be closer into the city, I worry about the viability of the mall if it doesn’t draw a middle and upper class crowd. One of the things everyone has long advocated was for reasons for suburbanites to come to the city.

    They aren’t going to come for Target, or Marshall’s but they might have come for a fancier Macy’s and Nordstrom. And I wonder if there’s a walkable population that could support an entire mall downtown–I am going to guess not.

    What are the logistical issues with a grocery store at the mall? Can they get those gigantic grocery delivery trucks in there? Would there have to be some kind of infrastructure change to accommodate all those freezers and coolers and stuff? Would there be a lot more shopping carts in the river?

  • My wife and my experience, having been around the mall for about 10 years, is that the clientele has changed over time pretty significantly. While it used to bring in more suburban moms (and their dollars) it seems to have trended more urban and young over the past 5 years, and likely lower income. I susepct the change in clientele due to the upgrades to the Garden City mall, which has become the “aspirational” (aka somewhat upscale) retail location of choice for a lot of folks in the ‘burbs. While JC Penney was by no means upscale, it certainly is a “mom” standby. I wonder if this changing clientele had something to do with their departure.

  • Historically, luxury has not done well at Providence Place (I worked there from 2002-2005).

    There would be no need and it would not benefit surrounding residents of Providence if another high-end Nordstrom like tenant took the place of JPC or even Macy’s. The Providence Place Nordstrom is only a C or D volume store as it is and they’re an original tenant.

    Something like a Target makes more sense for a city and state that lack the spending dollars for a Sak’s, Barney’s or even Marshall’s (on the lower end). For the mall to continue to be successful, it needs to diversify its tenants and not only would a Target provide much diversity, as it has at a dozen other area malls, it would potentially bring in more foot traffic a day than say any of the aforementioned would in a week. Especially if a Target grocery were to be added (assuming a Target were to be located here) it would add significant value to area residents who lack local markets and a core downtown grocery.

    These points are important to consider because P. Place is not a suburban mall, it is an urban mall and it has the duality of not only attracting suburbanites or out-of-towners, as once did downtown department stores, but it too has to cater towards area residents, some of whom reside within walking blocks of its doors.

    Case in point, P. Place lost a lot of its highbrow East Side and Cranston clientele when the market faltered in 2008, if not earlier. However, many of those customers are able to afford the expense of owning a vehicle and so travel to Garden City and points north to Boston and Natick whereas the urban shopper often is low income and/or lives a vehicle-free life. Suburban shopping centers like Garden City are beginning to urbanize by adding residential units, Providence Place is lucky enough to have be surrounded residential units and steady hotel occupancies, not to mention a wealth of students and more housing to be built in coming years and months. If anything, downtown needs a good anchor store or two to help our small businesses thrive there.

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