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Friday, July 23, 2021

Corporate retail failures lead to local changes

As Golden Triangle Mall braces for three store closures next month and continues negotiating to buy its abandoned Sears property, leadership remains optimistic about the health of the mall.

Corporate failures are to blame for two of the upcoming closures: Charlotte Russe, the affordable fast fashion brand, sold to a liquidation company after filing for bankruptcy, and Payless ShoeSource filed for bankruptcy in 2017 before announcing a massive liquidation earlier this year. Both mall locations are expected to close in April, said Matt Ludemann, the mall manager.

“We’re hitting a pocket with Sears closing and these bankruptcies, which are bad luck for us because the stores themselves were successful, but that doesn’t matter when there’s hundreds of stores overall [in the chains],” Ludemann said.

Minifigs, Bricks and More is moving out of the mall at the end of the month after four years. The locally owned shop — a place to buy, sell and trade Legos and have children’s birthday parties — is moving to the downtown Square in April. The space it’s leaving in the mall is roughly 7,000 square feet and will become a pop-up store for the holiday shopping season, Ludemann said.

The Payless and Charlotte Russe storefronts were recently renovated, and the mall is already talking to prospective tenants about filling the spaces.

“We’re working on new prospects to backfill, but I’m still hopeful Charlotte Russe will be saved, like Aeropostale was,” he said. “We’ve got short-term stuff we can turn over pretty quickly, and hopefully we’ll have some bigger stuff to announce in the next 30 to 60 days.”

Caroline Booth, the city’s director of economic development, said the Denton mall has been able to fare better than others in the region because of the mix of stores it’s been able to bring to the market.

“I think that the mall has done a good job of recruiting more local and regional businesses into their facility when national chains close,” she said. “Without having specifically discussed their strategies, I imagine they’ll be exploring those more local and regional options.”

A mall transformation has been underway since it was foreclosed on in 2010. It was purchased by Weitzman Group in 2011 and promptly remodeled. As part of an economic incentive deal with city, the development gets back half of the monthly sales tax receipts generated, minus the mall baseline amount — the mall’s sales tax revenue for 2010.

From the base report in 2010 before the mall was revamped, sales tax generation was up by 8.2 percent in 2018, according to data from the state comptroller’s office collected by the city.

The most meaningful way to look at sales tax data for the mall is looking at an entire year, because stores report sales tax to the state on different timelines, said Erica Sullivan, an economic development analyst with the city.

“Tenants may pay sales taxes to the state on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis,” Sullivan said. “Their trends are similar to other developments.”

News about Sears closing its doors broke in May, with the store in Denton closing in August. Also in August, mall ownership requested that the city reduce the baseline for the incentive by 10.7 percent because of the absence of Sears. Ownership later withdrew the request.

Now, Weitzman Group is focused on buying the Sears portion of the mall, which is part of the retailer’s bankruptcy filings. The prospects are good, with multiple companies interested in leasing the space as soon as Weitzman can finalize buying it.

“We’re talking to a few people to make it a two-tenant location,” Ludemann said. “There’s a lot of interest because of the visibility right off of Interstate 35E, and the new-off ramp jumps down straight into the parking lot.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @jennafduncan.

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