Triangle shopping malls are losing some once trendy teen and women’s clothing stores.
Abercrombie & Fitch, a mainstay at Crabtree Valley Mall for more than 20 years, closed Dec. 31 as part of corporate decision to shutter 95 stores nationwide. The company’s Hollister store at Crabtree is also closed, as it undertakes a several months-long renovation and redesign, but will reopen later this year.
Abercrombie & Fitch’s store at the Streets at Southpoint in Durham will remain open.
Meanwhile, the Limited store at Crabtree is mostly bare as the company’s 240 stores liquidate in anticipation of a bankruptcy filing.
Limited stores closed last week in Triangle Town Center in Raleigh and The Streets at Southpoint, and will close Saturday at Cary Towne Center, where it has sold out of merchandise and is now selling off its fixtures. The Limited’s website on Tuesday advertised 80 percent discounts off everything. The Limited is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy any day in the wake of two top executives departing the corporation in as many months, according to Blooomberg News.
None of this is of particular concern at Cratree Valley Mall, said mall spokesman Brian Asbill, who nevertheless acknowledged that it is unusual for the mall to have two vacancies amid its 220-plus stores.
“You want fresh storefronts and a new rotation,” Asbill said. “It’s just a natural evolution of the retail property.”
In the past several years, slipping sales have also undercut PacSun and Aéropostale, which went into bankruptcy protection last year, as competitors like Uniqlo and H&M move in to pick up the slack. Abercrombie & Fitch has seen quarterly sales declines for nearly four years and is in the midst of a rebranding campaign to rebuild customer loyalty and regain market share.
The “teen space” had expanded too quickly in recent years and is now paying the price with closures and bankruptcies, analyst Jessica Schmidt of KeyBanc Capital Markets in New York wrote in an industry report two weeks ago. The resulting fire sales and liquidations are drawing customers away from competing stores, she wrote. But Abercrombie and Hollister are positioning themselves to pick up customers from struggling competitors that are shrinking operations or going out of business.
“All of these structural shifts going on is really a problem for everyone,” said retail analyst Susan Anderson of FBR Capital Markets in Arlington, Va. “It’s really an overbuild and a huge influx of competitors from abroad and tons of online players.”
Crabtree Valley Mall is already lining up tenants to fill the vacancies, Asbill said. He said it’s typical for 15 stores to change locations within the mall in any given year. This year, for example, Gap will move into Abercrombie’s old space, while the vacated Gap location will be taken over by the Apple store in late 2017 or early 2018, Asbill said.
The Hollister site is undergoing a complete renovation, which will involve gutting the site and moving the location of a dividing wall, while the former Gap and future Apple store will be gutted and rebuilt. In the process Apple will nearly double its retail space to about 9,000 square feet, he said.