By Raymond Billy

rbilly@jacksonvilleprogress.com

Stage Stores Distribution Center will feel little impact from the closure of Alliance Data Systems’ Jacksonville plant, officials from the company say.

Alliance Data, which took over operation of the Stage Stores Inc.’s credit card program in 2003 in a $239 million acquisition, announced Jan. 31 it would close its Jacksonville facility in April. The closure will cost the area about 230 jobs, some of which will be relocated to Ennis, expanding its already established operations there.

“Essentially, they’re consolidating services and they will continue, as far as I know, to handle our credit card operations. It’s just that they’re going to be doing it in Ennis as opposed to here,” said George Baker of Stage Store Distribution Center-Jacksonville.

Stage will, however, endure the loss of rent revenue it received from Alliance Data. Since the 2003 credit acquisition, Alliance has been leasing the 1010 Willow Creek Drive building from Stage.

Over at Bealls Department Store, however, Alliance’s departure will have noteworthy ramifications. Bealls may lose a large percentage of its sales because of the Alliance move, especially if displaced workers decide to leave the city to find employment elsewhere.

Even though Stage Stores Inc., no longer owned the credit program, workers in the credit division continued to enjoy company discounts at its stores after Alliance took over that program.

Bealls Manager Mollie Trawick said she expects her store to see a noticeable difference in customer traffic in April.

“We do get an awful lot of our business from Alliance employees and their immediate families. So, business-wise, there will be an impact,” Trawick said.

Trawick also said the Alliance workers have been among her most loyal customers.

“A lot of those employees still feel related to the Bealls company,” Trawick said. “It’s sad news to hear that Alliance is closing.”

In the three weeks since Alliance officials announced the Jacksonville facility would be shutting down, Trawick said she has encountered several of the company’s workers whose lives will be dramatically changed in the months to come.

“I know a lot of them who shop here in the store. Two ladies were in here Tuesday. They have been with the company for over 10 years and they originally worked for Bealls when Bealls was connected with the credit division and they continued and stayed on with Alliance Data once Alliance bought out the credit division,” Trawick said. “I think one of them is going to retire and the other will seek other employment.”

Alliance Data officials have said they will assist employees in finding new jobs. The officials have also said they will work with the Jacksonville Economic Development Corporation and the Texas Workforce Commission to organize a job fair, possibly to be held in March.