Customers walk past stores on the Janesville Mall’s concourse in a 2019 Gazette photo. A store manager at the mall’s Lane Bryant has confirmed that the plus-size women’s fashion store will close Jan. 26.


The Janesville Mall and its owner on Thursday refuted a store employee’s claim that Lane Bryant’s plan to shutter its store at the mall is tied to “real estate negotiations.”

In a pair of emails, Janesville Mall manager Julie Cubbage and Racine Leahy, who leads leasing for RockStep Capital, the mall’s owner, wrote that Ascena Retail Group, the parent company that owns plus-size women’s fashion retailer Lane Bryant, has been planning to shutter hundreds of struggling Lane Bryant stores.

Their emails come after a store manager at Lane Bryant on Wednesday told a Gazette reporter that Lane Bryant corporate officials had told her the closure is tied to tenant-landlord “real estate negotiations,” although the employee said she had not been told details of those negotiations.

In an email to The Gazette on Thursday, Leahy wrote that Lane Bryant’s closure is not rooted in “real estate negotiations” with RockStep or the mall. Leahy wrote that Lane Bryant’s parent company has decided to close the Janesville store as part of larger plan to shed 667 Lane Bryant stores that are “underperforming” because of “a shift in consumer habits.”

“Rockstep Capital contacted Ascena to see what could be done to keep the store open. Ascena responded that the store’s trends did not support keeping the store open,” Leahy wrote.

Lane Bryant’s store at the mall has eight employees, the store manager told The Gazette. The store is slated to close Jan. 26, and is running closing sales starting Friday, the store manager said.

Julie Cubbage, the mall’s on-site manager, bristled at the Lane Bryant store employee’s explanation of the closure.

“I get where it’s easy for the general public to blame the landlord or mall owner because a store is closing,” Cubbage wrote in an email to The Gazette on Thursday

Cubbage wrote that it wasn’t lease negotiations but rather a lack of consumer spending at the Janesville Lane Bryant that is at the root of the store’s closure.

“People in Janesville don’t shop at Lane Bryant,” Cubbage wrote. “This is the time of year all retailers are looking closely at sales. They are all in the same boat, and to cut costs, the reality is they may have to close underperforming stores or risk bankruptcy.”

Cubbage called the dynamics behind Lane Bryant’s store closures “part of the shift in retail that consumers are dictating with their decisions to buy goods online and from the competition.”

Corporate officials for Lane Bryant have not responded to a Gazette request for comment on the decision to pull out of the Janesville Mall.