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VOL. 130 | NO. 7 | Monday, January 12, 2015

Macy’s Exit Presents Problems, Possibilities in Whitehaven

By Amos Maki

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In what could be a troubling sign for the city’s first enclosed mall, Macy’s is closing its 150,000-square-foot store at Southland Mall in early spring, a move that will affect 112 employees.

City officials are considering a plan to renovate the Southbrook Mall, which is located across East Shelby Drive from Southland Mall. Macy’s will close its Southland Mall store in the spring.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The South Memphis store is one of 14 locations Macy’s will close this spring as part of a national restructuring, the retailer announced late Thursday, Jan. 8. The 14 stores account for approximately $130 million in annual sales, according to the company.

Final clearance sales begin Monday, Jan. 12, and will run for eight to 12 weeks.

Macy’s, which operates 790 stores, said employees affected by the closings may be offered positions at other stores, and eligible full-time and part-time associates who are laid off will be offered severance benefits.

The Whitehaven store, which opened as Goldsmith’s in 1966 and was rebranded to Macy’s in 2005, has long served as an anchor in the city’s oldest mall.

The closure of the Macy’s could push more Whitehaven residents, including many who for years have lamented the lack of neighborhood retail and dining options, across the state line to DeSoto County, particularly nearby Southaven.

“I think (the closing) is a big deal, and I think it’s going to continue to force Whitehaven residents to shop in Southaven whether they want to or not, just because there’s more options,” said Danny Buring of The Shopping Center Group LLC. “It’s sad. They have very sparse retail options, few dining options, but the same goes for Raleigh and Frayser.”

Buring said older malls in the core city naturally tend to suffer as shopping and demographic shifts send tenants and then shoppers flocking to the newer, shinier big boxes built on the outskirts of the city.

“It’s like somebody builds a nicer, newer, more efficient car and they get rid of the clunker, and that is kind of what is happening,” said Buring. “It’s not that this demographic or that demographic is good or bad or indifferent, there’s just so much more ‘pop’ at Collierville, Wolfchase or Southaven.”

For the Southland Mall, losing one of two major tenants presents problems and opportunities, Buring said. A Sears store still anchors the other end of Southland Mall, which boasts nearly 70 tenants as it approaches the 50-year mark, including many smaller retailers that cater to the Whitehaven community.

It always stings to lose a large retailer that can draw area shoppers to a mall. However, the loss can allow mall owners to get creative by dividing up the space and bringing in multiple tenants to fill the void.

“There are opportunities for malls to up their game a little bit,” said Buring.

Michael Rixter, general manager and leasing manager for Southland Mall, could not be reached for comment.

Macy’s is exiting Whitehaven as the area prepares for a revitalization effort that includes streetscape improvements and a $90 million, 450-room resort-type hotel north of Graceland and Elvis Presley Boulevard.

The loss of Macy’s at Southland Mall comes as the city of Memphis is poised to enter the mall business, which has suffered nationally. Since 2010, more than two dozen enclosed shopping malls have been closed, and an additional 60 are currently facing the same fate, according to Green Street Advisors, which tracks the mall industry, the New York Times reported recently.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. announced in November that a renovation of the Southbrook Mall – located just across East Shelby Drive from Southland Mall – could be financed with up to $2.1 million in federal bonds through the Memphis Green Communities Program.

The nonprofit that owns Southbrook Mall sought city funding last year to repair the roof and the heating and air conditioning systems at the mall, which was built five years after Southland Mall. But the federal funding originally targeted for the mall repairs couldn’t be used because it would have been for a private use. Those funds are now slated to be used for streetscape improvements to Elvis Presley Boulevard

Meanwhile, the city has been pursuing the redevelopment of Raleigh Springs Mall into a “town center” style of development that would mix retail and government offices and functions, a plan that has been opposed by the mall’s owners.

PROPERTY SALES 57 280 1,209
MORTGAGES 55 244 916
BUILDING PERMITS 158 699 2,751