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A Montana mall faces back-to-school shopping … without department stores

The interior of a mall in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Tim Boyle/Getty Images

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Back-to-school season is just around the corner, and new data from the National Retail Federation suggests that shoppers will spend more money on school supplies and clothing than they did last year.

To hear more about how things are going in the retail business, we called Alana Ferko, manager of the Butte Plaza Mall in Montana.

In the past few years, the mall has lost its two department stores, J.C. Penney and Herberger’s, as part of a retail slump that hit malls across the country. But last week a new, non-traditional business opened up in J.C. Penney’s former space: a call center.

“Things are brighter,” said Ferko. “It’s just a great atmosphere. They’ve got over one hundred employees on site.”

Despite the call center, Ferko is nervous about upcoming sales. It will be Butte Plaza Mall’s first back-to-school shopping season without a department store.

“We’re already feeling it,” she said.

Click the audio player above to hear the interview.

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