Strong econ­omy helps soften blow of clos­ings

Area malls ex­plor­ing ways to fill space held by Sears, El­der-Beer­man.

Dayton Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - By Holly Shively Staff Writer

Sears an­nounced it will close a third lo­ca­tion in this re­gion — this time in Pi­qua — leav­ing three area malls with gi­ant empty re­tail spa­ces.

The Spring­field Sears store will be the only Sears Hold­ings lo­ca­tion left in the area when the store in the Mi­ami Val­ley

Cen­tre in Pi­qua is sched­uled to close in Fe­bru­ary. The Day­ton Mall store will close Nov. 25, and the Mall at Fairfield Com­mons store in Beaver­creek will close some­time in De­cem­ber.

The Sears clo­sures come in the wake of El­der-Beer­man clos­ing its large de­part­ment stores at the same malls in Au­gust.

Sears Hold­ings, which also owns Kmart and has been clos­ing stores for years, re­cently filed for Chap­ter 11 bank­ruptcy pro­tec­tion in late Oc­to­ber. The com­pany has an­nounced a to­tal clo­sure of 228 stores since this sum­mer.

While the clo­sures will cost the re­gion hun­dreds of jobs, the cur­rent econ­omy is help­ing to min­i­mize the ef­fects with low un­em­ploy­ment and in­creased con­sumer spend­ing.

“It’s never nice to lose a job, but it is true that there are a lot of job open­ings right now, so cer­tainly those peo­ple should feel con­fi­dent that they will be able to find a job,” said Michael Lip­sitz, an eco­nom­ics pro­fes­sor at Mi­ami Univer­sity’s Fisher School of Busi­ness.

The big­ger con­cern is if sales from the bank­rupt Sears don’t trans­fer to other re­tail­ers in the Mi­ami Val­ley, but in­stead move to on­line re­tail­ers, which would ul­ti­mately lead spend­ing out of the re­gion. That could cause tax con­se­quences with­out the money mov­ing through lo­cal gov­ern­ments and fewer peo­ple spend­ing while un­em­ployed im­me­di­ately af­ter Sears closes, Lip­sitz said.

“You might just think about it as a mov­ing around of money rather than a loss in par­tic­u­lar,” he said. “But it might look like a loss to Ohio.”

But there is a ben­e­fit. “There’s some sense that Sears’ busi­ness model wasn’t work­ing any­more,” he said. “Hope­fully that’s be­ing re­placed by busi­ness mod­els that are bet­ter for our com­mu­nity.”

That busi­ness model could in­clude a larger fo­cus on e-com­merce that is shap­ing the cur­rent re­tail land­scape. Ide­ally, that new busi­ness model finds a way to em­ploy lo­cally, Lip­sitz said.

It could also con­tain ex­pe­ri­ences, which are in­creas­ingly be­com­ing com­mon in out­door and in­door shop­ping cen­ters as con­sumer shop­ping habits change.

“(The Pi­qua Mall) does have some unique op­por­tu­ni­ties to bring in some­thing that would be unique and en­ter­tain­ment-like,” said Tim Eche­mann, prin­ci­pal with In­dus­trial Prop­erty Bro­kers in Pi­qua.

The Mall at Fairfield Com­mons in Beaver­creek has found suc­cess with the en­ter­tain­ment con­cept, plan­ning to split the Sears space into en­ter­tain­ment con­cept Round 1 and The Room Place fur­ni­ture store. But the Day­ton mall is still work­ing through plans to fill its space. The El­der-Beer­man spa­ces at all three malls are also empty.

“An­tic­i­pat­ing that this would hap­pen, we’ve been work­ing with some prospec­tive ten­ants for quite a while ac­tu­ally. Sears’ trou­bles are well known and this clo­sure was ex­pected,” said Bill Stae­bler, the di­rec­tor of re­tail de­vel­op­ment for Mid-Amer­ica, the owner of the Mi­ami Val­ley Cen­tre Mall.

Both the 100,000 square­foot Sears lo­ca­tion and the El­der-Beer­man box at the Pi­qua mall have seen a in­ter­est from mul­ti­ple par­ties, he said. But it’s not likely that the pub­lic will see any move­ment on the spa­ces for a few months since Sears isn’t ex­pected to close un­til Fe­bru­ary and re­tail­ers have put ex­pan­sion on hold while they fo­cus on hol­i­day sales.

“These are tough times in re­tail. We all get that,” Stae­bler said. “But we’ve owned the mall for 25 years, and we’re go­ing to stick it out. We like the lo­ca­tion, we like Pi­qua, we like the mar­ket.”

He said Pi­qua is par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive be­cause of its ho­tel, park­ing space and a lo­ca­tion that is vis­i­ble from In­ter­state 75.

And Pi­qua is in a thriv­ing part of the state for a mall, though it is ru­ral, said Tim Eche­mann, prin­ci­pal with In­dus­trial Prop­erty Bro­kers in Pi­qua. It’s the right dis­tance from Day­ton to have a steady cus­tomer flow, es­pe­cially with the growth of nearby Troy, while also be­ing far enough away that res­i­dents choose to stay in the com­mu­nity rather than travel to Beaver­creek or Mi­ami Twp.

“The other thing that is re­ally go­ing in its fa­vor is that the econ­omy, with the elec­tion and what’s hap­pened, we’re not go­ing to see big changes to the econ­omy and it’s go­ing so strong right now that there’s never been a bet­ter time to land an op­por­tu­nity for the space there.”

HOLLY SHIVELY / STAFF

The Sears store in the Day­ton Mall is ex­pected to close Nov. 25. Af­ter Fe­bru­ary, the only Sears Hold­ings store left in the area will be the one in Spring­field.

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