When Sears announced last fall that it would close 142 unprofitable stores, including one of the anchors at Boise Towne Square, it sent shudders through mall managers across the country.
Sears had one of the largest presences at U.S. malls — the Boise store took up 110,000 square feet on two floors — and in today’s business climate, it’s more difficult to lease out that much space to a single retailer.
But that could happen, said Darren Howard, Boise Towne Square’s general manager. “Because Boise is growing and thriving, I can say that the attention it’s received from interested parties is very positive,” Howard said in a phone interview.
That would be a positive step for a mall that has mostly thrived — last fall, it reported a 95 percent occupancy rate for its 165 retail spaces — but whose tenant mix is changing rapidly now.
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Several stores have closed or are closing. Among them are Payless Shoesource; Crazy 8, which sells toddler clothing, and Charlotte Russe, which sells women’s clothing. All three are owned by companies that are closing due to bankruptcy. Crazy 8 is part of the same company that operated Gymboree, which earlier closed its Boise Towne Square store.
The Best Buy mobile store and a Playlive Nation gaming lounge have closed.
“We’re looking at options for those spaces,” Howard said.
Idaho Camera, which was also an original mall tenant, closed its mall store last summer. Its space was recently occupied by I and I, a women’s clothing store owned by Boise resident Abdel Mbaye.
Two food-court restaurants, Mongolian BBQ Express Stir Fry and Blimpie, closed in the past few months.
In some cases, replacement stores are already on the way.
Earthbound Trading Co., which sells clothing, home goods and gifts, is scheduled to open in April. That same month, Fossil, which sells sunglasses, handbags and jewelry, will open.
Two eateries have opened recently in the food court: Aladdin’s Mediterranean and Good Burger. The latter took over a space previously occupied by McDonald’s.
Some stores are moving.
Hollister, a clothing store aimed at teens and young adults, is moving from the upper level near Kohl’s to a spot near Center Court. The floor space is about the same size but the layout will be different, Howard said. “We don’t expect much to change in terms of what is offered in the store,” he said.
Fuego — a T-shirt and novelty store being rebranded as Attic Salt — and Jake’s Dry Dock II, which also sells T-shirts and accessories, are moving to other mall locations to provide space for Hollister. Attic Salt replaces Things Remembered (another chain that has shuttered stores while in bankruptcy), which sold personalized gifts. Colors Origins, a holiday pop-up shop that sold wool and cotton ponchos, hats and scarves most recently occupied the space where Jake’s will relocate.
Hollister is scheduled to open its new store in June, and it will continue to operate in its old space while the new space is being remodeled.
All those stores combined don’t take up as much space as Sears.
Howard said he is now working with one potential tenant, whom he declined to identify, that would lease the entire Sears space.
“Once the legalities are sorted out, we’re very positive that the replacement will be beneficial to the center and for the community,” he said.
Brookfield Properties, which owns the Boise mall, operates 163 shopping centers in 41 states. At some of those centers, the space vacated by Sears has been split up to accommodate multiple tenants.
“That’s not off the table, but with the option available to take the entire space, that’s being more heavily pursued right now,” Howar said.
Sears closed its Boise store on Jan. 13. It was one of four anchor tenants when Boise Towne Square opened in October 1988. The Illinois-based company had operated in Boise since 1928.
Sears declared bankruptcy, and last month former CEO Eddie Lampert bought 425 surviving Sears and Kmart stores for $5.2 billion. Earlier this week, Sears sued Lampert, claiming he owes the company $57.5 million fronted to him for the purchase.
Howard said he expects to fill most of the mall’s smaller vacancies. Discussions with a couple of national retailers are underway, he said.
“We had a good 2018, and even with these store closings we think we’ll have a very productive 2019,” Howard said.
Correction: The Aveda Experience Center store at the mall remains open. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported otherwise.