Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Macy's Has Lost Its Magic: Speculation on Macy's Plan to Close 100 Stores in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic

NOTE: Macy's has only closed 68 out of 100 stores.  Many stores on this list may yet close in the future.

Macy's red star has been falling in much of the country as the department store industry continues to contract.  For years, Macy's seemed immune as they enjoyed a glut of paid off owned stores that were cash cows for the company, but the neglect of the buildings drawing away customers coupled with the weight of so many acquisitions has caught up with them.  Thus, Macy's willy-nilly efforts to close underperforming stores has been ramped up to begin getting rid of these tired, dumpy (although still far more architecturally appealing) stores.

Former Macy's (Bamberger's) at Owings Mills Mall in Baltimore.  The Macy's at the mall consolidated into Hecht's location at the mall in 2006 only to close a decade later with the mall.

This round of closings includes largely owned vs. leased stores that have no external motivation (such as lease expiration) to drive their closure.  In other words, this is unfortunately the climax of years of fears and threats about the health of the nation's malls driving a spike into many more malls that have been on the brink for years.  In fact, many of these malls have been surviving due to Macy's alone with no other suitable anchor in the mall able to draw traffic and no other anchors available to fill the void that a Macy's closure will leave behind.

The reality of this is not a surprise as Macy's has a large collection of run down, unrenovated, marginal stores that long since outlived their use as a superregional store.  A walk into these stores will reveal that little has been done since Macy's consolidated the nameplates of these stores over the past 30 years.  Most of these stores were built in smaller, older malls that were not so much superregional malls, but were more larger neighborhood malls that had the population and income large enough to sustain them until recently.  Others were larger malls that have since fallen on hard times and likely already have lost other major anchors such as Sears, JCPenney, Bon-Ton, Boscov's or Belk.  The days of having so many malls competing in one major market are over, and this list speculates on the potential store closings in the states that Sky City covers with an explanation of each and why.  Keep in mind that just because a prediction is made does not mean it is a closing store, but that any store on this list is very likely to close in coming years.  This list will be compared to the official list after the list is announced soon.

States covered here are Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey.  Even though Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma, West Virginia and other parts of the Mid-Atlantic are within the scope of the blog, the author does not have adequate knowledge of those markets to make an assessment here.  In addition, Mississippi does not have any Macy's locations.  However, categories will be added if further information becomes available.

This post divides stores into three categories:

1. Definitely Closing - This means the store is in a dying or dead mall that has little chance of recovering or is in a market that is too poor to adequately support the store.  If it does not close this year, it will most likely close next year.  Usually the store is old and in disrepair.  This also almost certainly refers to off-mall locations, especially downtown stores with exception to the New York City flagship.

2. Likely Closing - This means the store is in a struggling mall, is not well positioned in the market or too close to a competing store.  Store does not necessarily have to be in a dead mall, but most likely it is in a B-level mall.  This category also describes Macy's stores that duplicate in the same mall and may be downsized into a single store, which usually only occurs in B-level malls.

3. Possibly Closing - This means that it is in a weak market for the store typically unrelated to the mall itself, but the store may be marginally profitable.  This might also a mean it is a store in an A-level mall with too many competing anchors who tend to be the preferred option in that market (e.g. Dillard's, Belk, Bon-Ton).


LIKELY CLOSING: Brookwood Mall - Mountain Brook (Opened 1975)

The Macy's at Brookwood Mall is a legacy Rich's.  Brookwood Mall today is a struggling regional mall that is too close to more popular "The Summit" and has a store that likewise is cannibalized in sales with its other store at Riverchase Galleria.  It is one of only two remaining Macy's stores in Alabama that all arrived due to the purchase of Rich's by its parent company in the late 1970's.  Macy's also operated a location pre-merger with Federated Department Stores until 2003 in Riverchase Galleria

OUTCOME: Survived the first 68 closings (3/13/17)

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Riverchase Galleria - Hoover (Opened 1986)

Reason says that Macy's will not be interested in operating only one store in the entire state of Alabama.  Also a legacy Rich's, the mall has always had a glut of anchors and it competes for business with similarly positioned Belk (who entered via the legacy Parisian stores) and Von Maur (which opened in the former Macy's).

FUTURE PROSPECTS: Belk has been sold to a private equity firm who may ultimately spin off assets in weaker markets for the chain.  Belk has not done particularly well in Alabama, and Macy's may return to the state by cherry picking the best locations that Belk has currently such as Bridge Street Town Center in Huntsville, Belair Mall in Mobile and The Summit in Mountain Brook.

OUTCOME: Survived the first 68 closings (3/13/17)


NOTE: Only one Georgia stores were included in the original 68 stores closing: Georgia Square Mall in Athens, GA (on the list below).  Most of these stores are owned stores and likely are on hold looking for a buyer, so none on this list actually closed.

Georgia is likely going to be nasty in terms of closing in this round.  Macy's inherited a ton of stores due to prior ownership of prominent department stores Rich's and Davison's.  Unfortunately, large parts of the state's economy continue to flounder and much of these locations are in weak urban malls whose sole survival depends on Macy's continued commitment to those malls.  Macy's already closed a store this year at North DeKalb Mall in Atlanta effectively finishing off a 50 year old mall as part of the mall's redevelopment plan.  The list below is long.

DEFINITELY CLOSING: Gwinnett Place Mall - Duluth (Opened 1984)

Gwinnett Place Mall has been slowly dying since the late 1990's due to competition from both superregional Mall of Georgia and outlet mall Sugarloaf Mills.  Business began to trail a decade ago, and today the mall is largely vacant.  Two of its major anchors, Belk (former Parisian) and JCPenney have already left the mall.  The former Macy's (Davison's) was vacant for years and is currently occupied by struggling Mega Mart.  In fact, the only department stores left are Macy's (former Rich's) and Sears.  Local leaders are also looking to redevelop the mall soon.  As one of the retail stars in the 70's, 80's and 90's it is past its prime and nearing the end.

DEFINITELY CLOSING: Southlake Mall - Morrow (Opened 1976)

Southlake Mall has been dying for many years and like Gwinnett Place only has Macy's (former Rich's) and Sears left.  It lost Macy's (Davison's) in 2003 and JCPenney closed at the mall in 2011.  The area around the mall is in sharp decline, and a redevelopment on an outlot of the mall failed during the 2008 downturn.  Macy's also has not been renovated at the mall since the 1980's.  The auto center at the mall also closed awhile back.

DEFINITELY CLOSING: Macon Mall - Macon (Opened 1975)

The Macy's at Macon Mall opened as a legacy Davison's store and operated previously under the Macy's and Rich's banners before reverting back to Macy's in 2005.  The mall has had a high profile struggle to survive since a new outdoor shopping center opened on the opposite side of Macon in 2005.  Economic decline and high crime plague the area, and the vacancy rates in the area are skyrocketing.  The mall also faces competition from a smaller enclosed mall in Warner Robins to the south.  Since 2005, the mall has lost four of its six anchors with today only Macy's and JCPenney continuing to operate stores in the mall.  In addition, a large portion of the mall built as an addition was demolished restoring the mall to its original footprint.  The chance of survival is very low.

LIKELY CLOSING: South DeKalb Mall - Decatur (Opened 1969)

South DeKalb Mall is a survivor in many ways.  White flight, a new mall to the east and even the 2008 crash could not kill the store off, but the mall lost much of its luster when JCPenney fled its ancient, brutalist anchorcap on the opposite end for Stonecrest Mall in 2001.  While the interior was significantly updated over a decade ago, its parent company is struggling to keep its portfolio of malls afloat.  In addition, no legitimate anchor has ever filled the former JCPenney.  The area around the mall has also been losing stores for the past decade and Macy's itself is in disrepair.  Maintenance is poor and the interior has seen little in the way of updates since the 1970's.  A three story store in a struggling mall with demographics Macy's is no longer aiming for is not likely to survive this round of closings.

LIKELY CLOSING: Greenbriar Mall - Atlanta (Opened 1965)

Greenbriar Mall has a similar story to South DeKalb, except it has stronger community support.  Nonetheless, that did not stop JCPenney from leaving the mall in 1985 with today Burlington Coat Factory operating in the former anchor.  Other attempts to shore up the mall with quality anchor stores such as Circuit City and Cub Foods were replaced with non-retail.  The mall is also in bad need of an update with its last interior renovation completed in 1987.  While the mall survived much, including looting in 1995, the store was effectively replaced in 2004 with a new location in Douglasville to the west at Arbor Place.  The store was once one of the most profitable due to a dearth of Rich's locations in the area, but today Arbor Place Mall provides far more to choose from than the collection of B-level tenants in this 50 year old mall.

LIKELY CLOSING: Town Center at Cobb [Consolidation to Single Location] (Opened 1986; reopened 2003)

In 2005, the former Macy's was largely vacant with only part of the second floor used for a furniture gallery.  Today it has the men's store on the lower floor and clearance on third floor.

In 2005, Federated Department Stores found themselves pretty well stuck with two locations in the same mall when they merged Macy's and Rich's.  Now the mall has a women's/furniture store in the old Rich's and a men's/home/clearance store in the old Macy's.  The old Macy's has unused space on the second floor and the combined stores share way too much square footage than the typical Macy's.  Likely one of the two stores will close with the two stores consolidating back into one of the original anchors.

LIKELY CLOSING: Peachtree Mall - Columbus (Opened 2002)

Macy's opened in Peachtree Mall in 2004 in what was previously a Montgomery Ward that operated in the mall from 1976-2001.  Peachtree Mall today is struggling with crime and low incomes and has never filled the former Parisian space that closed in 2007 after Belk passed it over for a store.  While the mall remains the only enclosed mall in the entire region, this may not be enough to prevent the store from leaving the market.  The store also competes with similarly-positioned Dillard's (former Gayfer's) in the same mall.

LIKELY CLOSING: Georgia Square Mall - Athens (1981)

Georgia Square Mall has been treated as a stepchild of malls in the state despite being the only enclosed mall in the city.  Much of that is that is that a much better mall is found further west along GA 316 with Mall of Georgia 40 miles to the west.  That may be a long distance, but not when there is such a huge difference in stores and the roadway to it is posted at 65 MPH!  While still holding onto all of its anchors, Georgia Square is full of vacancies and is threatened with replacement with an outdoor center anchored by Belk and JCPenney (leaving Sears and Macy's high and dry).  Macy's at the mall has also seen few updates since it opened as Davison's in 1981.  The store also operated as Rich's from 1998-2005.

LIKELY CLOSING: Oglethorpe Mall - Savannah (Opened 1992)

Macy's is a newcomer to Savannah after inheriting a store from Rich's that opened after former anchor Maas Brothers closed as part of a Federated Department Stores buyout.  While built as a new two-level store, the anchor has an ancillary position in the mall and has never gained market share over competitor Belk who has been in the market for nearly 80 years.  With Dillard's likely looking for an opening in the mall, Macy's may be eager to leave a store that was recently reported as unprofitable.  In addition, this Macy's store is the only one in the entire market area for quite a distance in any direction, so it would make sense for them to leave the market.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Cumberland Mall - Smyrna (Opened 1973)

Cumberland Mall has struggled to survive a changing market and demographics.  As a once dominant mall in the 1970's and early 80's, the mall has continued to lose market share to other area malls and has lost two prominent anchors including Macy's (Davison's) in 2003 and JCPenney in 2005.  While the mall was successfully redeveloped a decade ago, the Macy's is the only remaining department store in the mall other than Sears and is one of the weakest in the market.  It is also far too large for the company's needs.  With traffic from the new Braves stadium threatening to further keep shoppers from the mall and a largely urban apartment-dwelling clientele near the mall, it is not terribly promising.  Nonetheless, the 2005 renovation of the mall was followed by an overhaul of the store itself a year later.  However, Perimeter Mall, Town Center and Arbor Place probably draw from a larger part of that shopping base that would normally shop at this store.  In addition, Sears is courting tenants in their attempt to depart the mall.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Stonecrest Mall - Lithonia (Opened 2001)

Macy's opened as Rich's at Stonecrest Mall as part of a long-heralded plan to bring a decent superregional mall to the middle class, but largely non-white southeastern Atlanta suburbs.  The mall was supposed to bring jobs and prosperity to the region, but much of this failed to materialize.  The mall has long suffered from vacancies, and Kohl's recently closed their location in the mall in the former Parisian that Belk passed over in 2007.  While the store did replace South DeKalb technically and robbed shoppers/business from Southlake, the mall is not holding its own.  People in the region with money are driving past the mall to shop at Lenox and Perimeter instead.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Northlake Mall - Tucker (Opened 1971)

Northlake Mall is a struggling mall slated for redevelopment.  However, the mall has a major difference from others in that it has not lost its three original anchors.  Kohl's did leave the mall this year, but it was in an odd location in a former Parisian that was carved out of mall space in the early 1990's.  Sears, JCPenney and Macy's (former Davison's) all still maintain locations at the mall, but with Sears a wild card and JCPenney uncertain on their commitment, it is unclear what Macy's plans to do with the stores.  It was in serious disrepair, but recently the interior was updated.  However, the third level of the store remains closed to the public.  Considering its proximity to Perimeter Mall, the store has a good chance of closing even with the uptick in business due to the closing of the nearby North DeKalb Mall store.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Arbor Place Mall - Douglasville (Opened 2004)

Even though Macy's opened late to Douglasville's mall due to popular demand, many feel that the mall (and especially the Macy's) is not doing well.  If the store closed, it would leave no Macy's locations on the western side of the Atlanta market if the other stores on this list closed.  If Macy's aim is to consolidate all of its stores only into the "Golden Triangle" (northern quadrant of Atlanta between I-75 and I-85) then this store is probably toast.  Otherwise, Macy's will probably stay due to an increase of business that will likely come with the closure of other approximate stores in the Atlanta region.

FUTURE PROSPECTS: Macy's may return to some of these markets, but probably not organically.  Most likely they will take over anchor spaces in existing newer centers in better areas than these stores are located.  In Atlanta, stores north of I-20 that close are unlikely to be replaced, but new stores as buyouts may pop up in places like McDonough, Newnan or Peachtree City where incomes are higher.  Macy's might also take over Belk or Dillard's stores if either decide to leave the market.  In Macon, this would involve a takeover of the existing Belk or Dillard's at the Shoppes at River Crossing.


DEFINITELY CLOSING: Columbia Place Mall - Dentsville (Opened 1977)

Macy's has been lukewarm in their commitment to the Columbia market for years as Rich's only opened one store in the market and the downtown Davison's store was not replaced with the planned, but never built store at Dutch Square Mall.  The one remaining location at Columbia Place Mall anchors a mostly dead mall that is anchored with a barely-open Sears (a large part of the store is closed off) and a Burlington Coat Factory in one level of the former JCPenney.  The fourth anchor, Dillard's (former Belk) remains vacant and in disrepair.  The store itself has seen few, if any, updates and was never a strong performer when it was part of Rich's.  The closing of this store will only leave one Macy's in the state in Haywood Mall in Greenville.

FUTURE PROSPECTS: Macy's may return to the market if Belk or Dillard's ever leaves Columbiana Mall, but they clearly have no plans to build any new stores from the ground up.

OUTCOME: It was not known at the time this was written that Macy's had given a promise that they would not exit any markets, so this store was safe.  Most likely Macy's is looking to relocate their store elsewhere in the market.


North Carolina saw the bulk of weaker Macy's stores close recently, but Macy's has always struggled in the state due to the prominence of Belk vs. other states where Belk is less popular or unknown.  Belk started in North Carolina and has brand loyalty over other mid-market department stores unlike most states similar to how Boscov's dominates in its sector in Eastern Pennsylvania.  As long as Belk continues to dominate, Macy's presence in the state will be weak, but the future of Belk as a company will determine the final outcome.  Regardless, three stores appear to be weak in the market.

LIKELY CLOSING: Northgate Mall - Durham (Opened 1995)

Macy's opened at the mall as Hecht's at a time at Northgate Mall at a time before a major competitor opened in the market.  Streets at Southpoint became such a dominant mall after it opened in 2006 that it remains one of the top Macy's.  Of course, the Macy's at Southpoint has also taken lots of business from this store making it today a secondary store in an urban mall.  This means the store is likely use for returns and is not adequately profitable.  Add to this that the mall today is only a two anchor mall without a major draw with Sears as the only other anchor.  While once a stronger mall with Hudson Belk, today the mall is hanging on because of Macy's alone.  That is not enough to save it from closure in a market where Macy's is already competing poorly.

OUTCOME: Store is closing (prediction was correct)

POSSIBLY CLOSING: SouthPark Mall - Charlotte (Opened 1986)

The Macy's at SouthPark Mall has been the weakest performer in the mall compared to Dillard's legacy Ivey's store and especially Belk's flagship store in the mall.  In addition, the store faces few options for merchandising when grouped with Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom.  With weak offerings, the only reason the store is in the mall was because it inherited the store through the May Company merger.  It opened as Thalhimer's and was later Hecht's.  The store is likely to close to sell to a competitor better suited for the mall's merchandise mix or for redevelopment.

OUTCOME: Prediction was wrong.  Store closing in the market was actually the Carolina Place Mall location, so apparently this store was chosen as the one they wanted to put their efforts into.  Dick's will be replacing the Macy's at Carolina Place Mall.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Friendly Center - Greensboro (Opened 1957)

Friendly Center is one of the most successful shopping centers in the Triad surviving as a large open-air shopping center with upscale stores.  However, despite its layout it tends to have many stores like malls with Belk, Sears and Macy's as major anchors.  Unfortunately, Greensboro has had trouble keeping Macy's as it recently closed another free-standing store in the city.  The remaining store, which opened in a former Hecht's that originally began as Richmond-based Thalhimer's, is apparently not adequately competitive with Belk.

FUTURE PROSPECTS: Macy's will not return to any of these markets unless Belk decides to sell their own (better located) stores to Macy's in the future.  This all rests on the future of Belk as a company since it is now owned by an equity firm and no longer managed by the Belk family.

OUTCOME: Prediction was wrong.  Store appears to be safe for now.


OUTCOME: Neither store closed in the first 68, so both are safe for now.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Old Hickory Mall - Jackson (1978)

The Macy's at Old Hickory Mall is an anomaly that came directly as a result of it originally opening as Memphis-based Goldsmith's.  A higher than average poverty rate in a more urban-oriented mall position the mall similar to failed Macy's locations in other former Goldsmith's in Memphis such as at Raleigh Springs Mall or Southland Mall.  While not a dead mall nor in an area with any other immediate competition from other Macy's, it is a small mall that probably does not provide the sales-per-square-feet or image that Macy's desires.  The store also competes with Belk in the same mall.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Rivergate Mall - Goodlettsville (1971)

Call this one a hunch, but in the previous visit to Rivergate Mall in 2012 it was obvious that the inline stores were showing signs of weakness.  Stores in the mall appear to cater to a more urban clientele and at the very least suggest this is a B-level mall.  The fact that two vacant anchor spaces were filled with an indoor trampoline park and a cut-rate furniture store appear to be warning signs.  It should also be noted that Rivergate is an old mall with a very large Macy's location that was inherited from the various changing of hands.  Starting as regional Castner-Knott, the store slogged through three nameplates before Macy's including Proffitt's and Hecht's.  While this tends to be a typical story in the Nashville market, it is unclear if this location has lasting power despite being the only mall on the northeast side of Nashville.


OUTCOME: Missed it again on the first 68 except for two: Plymouth Meeting and Montgomery Mall.  I also missed the closing of the Neshaminy Mall store in the same market.  However, any of these listed are likely to be closed when the final 34 stores are announced.

DEFINITELY CLOSING: Roosevelt Mall - Philadelphia (1964)

Another former Strawbridge's that originally opened as Wanamaker's (reopening in 1995), the better question to ask is why the store is still there.  The store is ridiculously close to the Neshaminy Mall store, and Roosevelt Mall itself is an open-air mall that was mostly demalled years ago with no other anchor department stores.  A nearby JCPenney also recently left the market.  Inside, the store has not been updated at all.  This would be an easy picking for Macy's as it would not have any measurable effect on the shopping options in the area and would likely open up redevelopment opportunities.

LIKELY CLOSING: Center City Philadelphia (1911)

The closing of the Center City store is very likely considering the glut of Macy's stores in the market and the closing of the former Kauffman's flagship in Pittsburgh last year.  This store is the very grand former Wanamaker's flagship, but it has suffered under the decline of downtown department stores in general and the fact that the store itself changed many hands after the Wanamaker family shut down the business.  This is one "likely" on the list that we wish was not.

LIKELY CLOSING: Plymouth Meeting Mall - Plymouth Meeting (1966)

The only reason that "definitely closing" is not used is that Plymouth Meeting is NOT a dead mall.  However, it is very close to King of Prussia Mall in a very, very old former Strawbridge's department store.  The real clue here is that the store has barely been touched in decades and did not seem that busy.  In addition, the third level of the store is also closed off.  Those clues are pretty convincing that this store will not last this round of closings.

LIKELY CLOSING: Springfield Mall - Springfield (1974)

Springfield Mall is a small ancillary mall too close to many other dominant malls in the market including Concord Mall in Delaware and King Of Prussia.  While conveniently located, the mall only has one other anchor (Target) and does not appear to be a significant draw.  Originally opening as Bamberger's, the store remains as a legacy of the once dominant regional department store owned by R.H. Macy.

LIKELY CLOSING: Oxford Valley Mall - Langhorne (1973)

Once a dominant mall in the region, Oxford Valley Mall appears to be dying.  With a number of B-tenants, an empty anchor that last operated as Boscov's, the prospects of the mall do not look promising.  Since that is the case, Macy's (which originally opened as Bamberger's) may be looking to exit.  Much of Oxford Valley Mall's business today seems to have been taken by the far more popular Neshaminy Mall to the west as well as Willow Grove Park Mall further to the west..

LIKELY CLOSING: Montgomery Mall - Montgomeryville (1977)

Montgomery Mall is one of those candidates for eventual demalling as one of its major department store anchors proved impossible to keep filled after Boscov's exited a former Wanamaker's in 2008.  Today that store is Wegman's.  While Wegman's is indeed a huge draw, it is a draw itself not so much a draw to the mall.  The rumor is that the Macy's at the mall is not doing well, and that obviously makes sense considering that the mall is too close in proximity to wildly successful Willow Grove Park Mall and King of Prussia Mall, both far more of a draw than this lackluster mall.  Considering that the average mall needs a 25 mile radius between malls, having both malls 10 and 14 miles away, respectively, is not likely to keep the store open for long.

LIKELY CLOSING: Viewmont Mall - Scranton (1968)

As Scranton's only mall, Viewmont Mall is a second-tier mall to the more dominant Wyoming Valley Mall, which also contains Macy's.  Considering that Sears already closed at the mall, the mall only has 70 stores and the only other anchors are Dick's and JCPenney, Macy's may be looking at an exit strategy.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Exton Square Mall - Exton (1973)

Exton Square Mall is in an unfortunate position as Macy's is the absolute centerpiece of the mall.  As a square shaped mall that literally surrounds Macy's on four sides, the closure of Macy's would create a very difficult situation for the mall.  Nonetheless, it is worth considering that Macy's at the mall, a former Strawbridge's, is very close to King of Prussia Mall.  A mere 16 miles separates the two malls, and what's worse is that it is all freeway inbetween!  Exton Square is not in a bad area, but the mall proves that it has trouble keeping anchors after JCPenney closed in 2014 without another department store to replace it.  Remaining anchors besides Macy's are Sears and Boscov's, so this already places the more than 40 year mall at risk.


LIKELY CLOSING: Dover Mall - Dover (1982)

The Macy's at Dover Mall's troubles have been a bit mysterious, but the likely scenario is that people drive the 40 mile trip to Christiana Mall for better merchandise.  The Macy's at the mall is a low performer, and it was a latecomer as it was taking over the spot of a former Leggett department store that previously had been the only location in the state.  The store became Macy's as a result of Leggett divesting the store in 1997 with Strawbridge's taking over.


OUTCOME: Two out of three on the "definitely closing".  The others not so much (thankfully).  However, any of these are candidates for the final 34.

DEFINITELY CLOSING: River Ridge Mall - Lynchburg (Opened 1978)

A legacy Thalhimer's and later Hecht's, this store anchors an otherwise dying mall and is clearly a weaker player from the total lack of investment in the store.  It has seen little updates since the 1970's, and has seen no updates since the merger with May Company in 2006.  The mall itself saw the loss of Sears a few years ago, and the mall is today owned by Liberty University.  The mall is still anchored by Belk and JCPenney, but that is probably not enough to save the store.  Most shoppers make the journey west to Roanoke or east to Richmond for serious shopping as evidenced by the troubled state of the mall.

OUTCOME: Nailed it.  Store is closing.

DEFINITELY CLOSING: Manassas Mall - Manassas (Opened 1997)

Opening in 1997 as Hecht's, Macy's presence at the mall is a direct result of Hecht's early interest in the mall.  Opening as an ancillary mall in 1974, Hecht's rescued the mall from that fate opening in the former Grant's space later moving to its current location when Target took the former spot.  However, the mall has seen a loss of two major anchor tenants in the past few years.  Target left in 2012 and JCPenney closed in 2014.  The mall has been aggressively redeveloping expanding mall space into the former Target and bringing At Home into the former JCPenney, but with the only other anchors being beleaguered Sears and Wal-Mart in a market whose clientele does not make up the typical Macy's shopper, the store is likely losing money and will close as its 20 years of business in its current location commence.

OUTCOME: Store did not make the cut for the first 68 stores.

DEFINITELY CLOSING: Landmark Mall - Alexandria (Opened 1965)

Landmark Mall is already in the process of clearing out for redevelopment.  Struggling for years since it was enclosed in the late 1980's, the mall only presently has Sears as its other anchor with tons of vacancies inbetween.  While the store gets business, its close proximity to star locations at Springfield Mall and Pentagon City pretty much doom this store.  It is likely the owners would welcome the store's departure as well to make redevelopment into something less retail-oriented possible.

OUTCOME: Store is closed, although the closing was pretty easy to predict on this otherwise dead mall prepping for redevelopment.

LIKELY CLOSING: Fair Oaks Mall - Fairfax [Consolidation to Single Location] (Opened 2000)

The real retail mystery is how Macy's has continued to operate two full-line stores at this mall.  As a high-level B mall, Fair Oaks is beginning to show signs of its age with Tysons Corner continuing to suck life out of the mall.  Macy's operates two stores in the mall because the original Macy's was owned by Federated Department Stores and the second by May Department Stores (as Hecht's) and since the 2006 merger has apparently been unable to exit either store.  The most likely store to close is the Macy's that opened in the mid-1990's on what had originally been the Lord & Taylor anchor site leaving the former Hecht's.  This is likely a strategic move as plans are already under consideration to redevelop the adjacent Sears site meaning that the west end of the mall will be redeveloped.

LIKELY CLOSING: Ballston Common Mall - Arlington (Opened 1959)

The Macy's at Ballston Common Mall is the former flagship store for Hecht's, which means that the closing of this store will be very sad considering that it has operated for more than 60 years.  However, the difficulty in accessing the mall and extreme competition from more popular Pentagon City and Tysons Corner Macy's locations pretty much doom this store.  The mall is beginning the process of redevelopment, and a second Macy's in the mall already closed recently.  This gives the marginal store an easy exit strategy, but the loss will mean another once storied department store will lose its original downtown flagship.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Tysons Galleria - Tysons Corner (Opened 1988)

The Macy's at Tysons Galleria is an absurd duplication of Macy's with another Macy's in Tysons Corner Center with far more business literally across the street!  The Tysons Galleria store anchors a mall that is far too upscale for the store sharing space with Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue while Macy's is an oversized and run down store that has never been touched since the day it opened.  As an original Macy's, the duplication is once again a result of consolidation with the approximate Tysons Corner Center store a former Hecht's.  It is unclear how the mall will handle this vacancy, but it is a store that has long outlived its profitability and usefulness in such a competitive market.


OUTCOME: Pretty much missed it on Maryland for the first 68.  Any of these might make the second 34, but Maryland is a stronger market for Macy's, especially due to the lack of any significant competitor in major Maryland markets such as Belk, Dillard's or Bon-Ton.

DEFINITELY CLOSING: Marlow Heights Shopping Center - Marlow Heights (1960)

The Macy's in Marlow Heights is not even part of a mall.  It is a former Hecht's in a strip center.  Although near a mall, the mall it is nearest too is a pathetic specimen of a mall (Iverson) with no real department store anchors (unless Burlington Coat Factory and Forman Mills count).  Overall it is in a lower income area that cannot adequately support it, and the store has never been updated since at least the 1980's.  A big factor in why the store has not already closed has much to do with the lack of any nearby Macy's store.  The closest store is at Springfield Mall or The Mall at Prince Georges, both 18 miles away.  Nonetheless, this store does not appear to be the type of store in the long-term goals for Macy's

DEFINITELY CLOSING: Security Square Mall - Woodlawn (1982)

Security Square is another one of those "how can this still be open" stores considering the horrible condition of the mall it anchors.  Mostly untouched in decades inside and full of mom and pop stores, Security Square got seedy to the point to where a former JCPenney was divided up into a very uninspiring (and partially failed) Asian mini-mall that has no rhyme or reason.  The only other department store still operating in the mall is Sears while the mall's two other anchors are by no means what you would find in a healthy mall.  The former Hochschild-Kohn is today USA Discounters while Burlington Coat Factory fills a former Woolworth.  While the mall held on providing a marginal (and unrenovated) Macy's (former Hecht's) to the urban market, it is likely marginally successful.  Unfortunately, the loss of this store would leave no Macy's on the west side of Baltimore since the nearest location at Owings Mills Mall closed last year.

LIKELY CLOSING: Lakeforest Mall - Gaithersburg (1978)

A struggling mall originally built by Taubman, this mall has failed to capture the bulk of shoppers in the region who choose instead to shop at Montgomery Mall, Wheaton Plaza or Tysons Corner across the river in Virginia.  While the mall has held onto its anchors thus far, the mall caters to an increasingly urban demographic with major chain stores fleeing the mall.  In its place are B-level tenants who are likely to lead to an exodus of the anchors soon, most likely starting with Macy's.

OUTCOME: Should have removed it from the list when it was announced that Macy's Backstage was moving in.  Perhaps if that flops the store may yet be closed.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Mall at Prince Georges - Hyattsville (1958)

Overall, Mall of Prince Georges is a highly successful urban mall, but it is questionable if this store fits into the future strategy of Macy's.  The store is old and mostly unrenovated inside, and the classic Hecht's location is not going to be able to survive based on history alone.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Bowie Town Center (2001)

This one might come as a surprise to many, because the store is not that old and the area around it is middle class, but the fact remains that Macy's is only at this lifestyle center as a replacement for the former Hecht's location that was at nearby Free State Mall.  Today, shoppers are more likely to drive a bit further to Annapolis to shop at the Macy's at Annapolis Mall while those closer to DC are more likely to shop at the store at The Mall at Prince Georges or Wheaton Plaza.  It is really a wild card, but as a store in an open-air center approximately 15 miles either way from two popular malls, it is debatable whether this store or the store at Mall of Prince Georges is more at risk or if this newer store is more in danger.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: Marley Station Mall - Glen Burnie (1987)

Marley Station Mall is not a dead mall, but there is a very obvious sign of decline with the mall in that the former Bamberger's/Macy's is still vacant and has not redeveloped since closing a decade ago.  In addition, the variety of stores is less than many other malls in the region.  Macy's continues to operate a store today in a former Hecht's, a store that to say the least looks to be in need of a pressure washing.  To say the least, the mall is a B-mall, and it suffers from its proximity of 15 miles via interstates and MD 2 to reach more popular Annapolis Mall while other parts of the trade area likely prefer going to The Mall in Columbia 20 miles to the west.  Nonetheless, the store has likely seen an increase in business due to the closing of Macy's at Owings Mills Mall.

POSSIBLY CLOSING: The Centre At Salisbury - Salisbury (1991)

The Macy's at Salisbury is another legacy Hecht's store that relocated to the mall 26 years ago from the now-demolished Salisbury Mall.  As one of the malls that recently lost a JCPenney in a market that is weaker economically than much of the state, is this store soon to be on the chopping block?  If so, this would leave only Boscov's and Sears as anchors meaning that the anchor is pretty important to the success of a mall that also the only major mall within a 60 mile radius.   If this one closed, it would be a surprise seeing that it is otherwise a very healthy mall, but it cannot be ruled out as sometimes the mall itself is stronger than its anchors and Boscov's appears to be the biggest draw to mall shoppers.


DEFINITELY CLOSING: Voorhees Town Center (Echelon Mall) - Voorhees (Opened 1973)

This one shouldn't be a surprise to anyone considering that half the mall was already redeveloped with the other half dead today.  The remaining anchors at the former Echelon Mall today include an unrenovated and partially closed (fourth floor) Strawbridge's with Boscov's as the other anchor.  The interior of the mall is full of vacancies and empty of customers.  Macy's hung on to try the redevelopment (as Strawbridge's), but their commitment to a poorly located mall so close to Cherry Hill Mall (8 miles) and Deptford Mall (6 miles!), the need for this store is just not there.

OUTCOME: Nailed it, but missed the nearby closing of the Moorestown Mall store.

The above should be viewed as speculative and not factual.  None of these stores listed are actually known in regards to their status until the official list comes out.  

Friday, July 15, 2016

Newmarket North Mall/Newmarket Fair Mall: Newport News, VA

A reality that is nothing new to the residents of Hampton Roads is that the area is overmalled.  Hampton Roads can be compared in many ways to Florida in how it is basically a huge sprawing suburban cluster of cities instead of a single city making up the area.  The result is that each city attempted to carve out its own suburban realm including their own malls to pad the city's tax base.  Mall developers, eager to oblige, built and built malls until malls both major and minor were all located within 5-10 miles of each other cannibalizing each other for stores, sales and shoppers.  This became evident quickly as the earlier malls died more quickly than most and the newer, larger malls found it difficult to survive.  This was certainly the case for Newmarket North Mall.

Newmarket North suffered for a number of reasons.  One was that it was developed using apparently outdated or at least not well researched data.  Constructed by the Hahn Company, the mall was not well positioned for the time it was built: a superregional mall opening in an area that was already becoming too blue collar to support it.  Newmarket North did not initially appear to be a rotten apple.  It had solid anchors, was in a seemingly prime retail strip and it was not redundant with other area malls.  That distinction did not last very long.

Obviously the most remarkable thing about Newmarket North Mall is that despite the mall itself being demalled for nearly 20 years, Sears still lingers on with the old 1975 logo still hanging on at the mall entrance!

When the mall opened on March 26, 1975, it was anchored by Sears, Leggett and Miller & Rhoads.  All of those were prominent anchors in Virginia at the time with Sears a guaranteed draw, Leggett a desirable anchor found throughout the state as a division of Belk and Miller & Rhoads a prominent upscale department store based in Richmond.  Its nearest competitor was Coliseum Mall, which complemented the mall with anchors that included Korvette's (later Wards), JCPenney and Rice's-Nachman's.  Colliseum Mall was better positioned along I-664, but it lacked the solid anchors that Newmarket North Mall had.  The result was an expansion in 1976 that added Thalhimer's and Smith & Welton to the mall.  This honeymoon lasted a little over a decade.  Another mall, Mercury Mall, was much closer but it was a very small early mall without any major anchors and was effectively killed off by Newmarket North by the mid-1980's.

This tent-like structure was obviously added in the 1989 update

Looking opposite Sears toward Miller & Rhoads.  At this point, only the layout gives away its origins as a mall.  All of the storefronts were removed in 1998 and replaced with these walls.  However, the ceiling, rails and flooring are original to the 1989 update other than the fact the once teal blue rails are now a drab gray.

Lower level view looking back to Sears and the Sears court

In 1987, competition arrived to both malls in the form of Patrick Henry Mall.  Like Coliseum, the new mall did not initially appear to be as credible of a threat as another Crown American mall anchored by Hess's, Bradlee's and another location of Leggett.  However, changes in the retail scene were underway that would deal a crushing blow on the still-new mall.  The first was when Miller & Rhoads parent company Allied Department Stores became a victim of the financial scandals that created major upheaval in the industry.  While many Allied stores were sold to competitors, primarily Hess's, Miller & Rhoads went under.  In 1990, the store closed for good with no other department store coming to take its place.  Hess's was the logical successor, but they were not about to duplicate stores with their Patrick Henry store.

The center court update with the grand looking staircases and domed skylight were part of the 1989 update.  However, much of the color was stripped out of this scene in subsequent updates.

Despite the pending closure of Miller & Rhoads, the mall was sold to Goodman Segar Hogan.  Its new owners were still ambitious about the mall's future and immediately set forward to commence a major renovation.  The mall was gutted and redone as a lighter, brighter mall and given a new name: Newmarket Fair Mall.  Nonetheless, new tiles, paint and skylights were not the cure to this mall's illness.  The fact was that the newer Patrick Henry Mall was visible along I-64 in a better neighborhood and Coliseum Mall also expanded heavily in an attempt to compete with Patrick Henry Mall.  Newmarket North received no such expansion, and it was a couple miles off the interstate in a declining neighborhood.

About the only evidence left of a former storefront is on the left side with Miller & Rhoads behind me.

The right side of the former Miller & Rhoads mall entrance is still visible while the left side is walled off.  It is today a Verizon call center.

Diagonal escalators in the Miller & Rhoads court give the mall a DeBartolo feel.  Only the down escalator was working so as to prevent shoppers/visitors (what shoppers?) from accessing the restricted parts of the second floor.

Once a fountain, now a tacky cluster of house plants where the water used to flow.

As the 80's were coming to a close, the stores were also beginning to close.  By the early 90's the mall had a high number of vacancies, and the blows kept coming.  After Miller & Rhoads closer, next to go was when Leggett, who also had a store at Patrick Henry, downgraded their store to an outlet in 1991.  In 1992, the bridge/tunnel on I-664 to the south was completed connecting Newport News to Norfolk taking traffic off of Mercury Blvd while drawing more traffic away from the mall and to better shopping options further south and east.  By that time a new look could not restore the luster.  By the middle of the decade, the mall was half-empty and Leggett pulled out around the same time.  When the dust settled all that was left were a few stores including a Morrison's Cafeteria and Sears.

Piccadilly Cafeteria, formerly Morrison's Cafeteria, continues to serve mall walkers (and maybe workers)

Entrance wing with Piccadilly on the right and the Sears court behind me

What is strange is that despite the death of the mall as a retail center, Sears never left.  When all three malls opened in Newport News, the others failed to attract a Sears nor provided room for them to relocate.  The mall itself was ultimately repurposed as a business center in 1998 meaning that a fully functioning Sears with two levels of merchandise and a Piccadilly Cafeteria, originally opening as Morrison's Cafeteria, are all the retail that remain.  What's even more interesting is that Sears never even updated its mall entrance still sporting its red Times New Roman logo on the mall entrance!

Sears, facing east.  The logo on the exterior was, unfortunately, updated.

Sears auto center also still going strong

Former Miller & Rhoads, facing south.  It was not a terribly inviting store.

Newmarket North Mall's revival as a business center was successful, but it also looks to be winding down.  The mall has in fact survived longer as a repurposed center than it did as an actual retail mall.  However, the reality of malls as a whole failing coupled with the glut of office space since the 2008 crash has made repurposing malls less attractive with once enthusiastic tenants vying for the shared, affordable office space leaving for nicer buildings.  In addition, the mall's sole surviving anchor is today a very troubled company likely to liquidate within the next 2-5 years meaning that the unyielding survivor is basically feasting on scraps to keep the lights on and doors open.  The rest of the mall closes at 5 PM on weekdays like any other office building.

The main part of the mall includes window cuts were a brutalist brick facade was once windowless.  This is the Miller & Rhoads court entrance.

In all honesty, there is not much left to see in the mall as most of its 1980's store fronts have all been stripped away for various office facades.  Nonetheless, the building itself actually outlasted its more successful primary competitor: Coliseum Mall.  The mall today is one of many joining the chapter of failed malls since the 40 year mall boom busted including many in the area.  Coliseum Mall, now an open-air center known as Peninsula Town Center, just lost its Macy's in the former Thalhimer's and Chesapeake Square to the south is emptying out.  Several other smaller malls in the region are also long gone including nearby Mercury Mall.  How much longer will Newmarket North continue to go south before it bottoms out?

BONUS: 1988 commercial for the mall showing it in its original 1975 look.

ALSO: Further reading with historical photos on Sick Malls.