More stores closing at area malls

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - You may have noticed on your last trip to the mall more stores have closed up shop. Store vacancy rates have reached a ten year high across the nation.

Right now, we're told there are no plans for national tenants at Chesterfield Towne Center to expand in 2009 because of the economy. It's a sign of the times, empty stores at Richmond-area malls.

"It's a down economy retailers whose leases have expired instead of renewing are pulling out of malls," said Nancy Thomas with the Greater Richmond Retail Merchants Association.

Richmond BizSense reports about 15 percent of stores at the area's six largest malls are vacant. Short Pump Town Center has the lowest ratio at six percent. Willow Lawn has the highest with 23 percent or 12 empty stores. At Henrico's Virginia Center Commons, we counted 18 stores and fast food restaurants no longer open.

It's not just malls. Richmond's Carytown has been hit hard with 25 stores closed. Gregory Petrus will close his designer handbag store next month.

"A lot of people they come and see the merchandise they love it they want it but they don't have any kind of capacity to spend," said Petrus who opened Ricco Leathers just last August.

But Lex's Of Carytown has withstood 13 years.

"Carytown always goes through a cycle and unfortunately the ones that hadn't been in business long enough and didn't have enough revenue saved can't sustain it it's been tough for most markets," said Lex's owner Lisa Mcsherry.

Retail experts look at the vacancies as an opportunity.

"I think a mall always wants new blood in their retail spaces it attracts new, existing customer increases the traffic in the mall," said Thomas.

Petrus might just consider it.

"I may put myself in the corner of a mall and see what happens," said Petrus.

Chesterfield Towne Center has a short term lease program to help keep its occupancy rate where it is at 90 percent. Four weeks from now, the mall will welcome two new tenants.

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