In the beginning, the Findlay Village Mall was basically two strip malls separated by open space. Eventually, a roof covered them and shoppers could visit stores without having to step outside.
Today, the mall remains, but it will have to undergo another transformation to survive.
According to a story by reporter Lou Wilin in Saturday’s Courier, the mall is operating at 80 percent capacity, meaning there are too many empty stores and too few shoppers. Some interviewed described mall traffic as extremely light, especially during weekdays.
The departure of mall anchor Sears earlier this year didn’t help, but some say shopper volume has been on the decline for some time.
No one, though, is writing the mall’s obituary just yet.
Tony Iriti, economic development director for the Findlay-Hancock County Alliance, said Tuesday he is in regular contact with the mall’s owner, but the retail industry is complex and finding tenants isn’t easy.
Retailers looking to expand monitor community demographics, including average household income, in deciding where to locate. Many times they’ll choose to put a stand-alone store in a larger urban area, as opposed to locating in a mall in a single-store market like Findlay.
Target, a retailer on many people’s wish list, could be a game-changer if it landed at the mall. It has been courted by Findlay for years, but apparently doesn’t believe the numbers add up.
Meanwhile, history appears to be reversing itself.
Years ago, when Tiffin Avenue developed into the city’s primary shopping district, it hurt businesses downtown. Now that a renewal is taking place along Main Street, it seems to be the east side, particularly the mall, that is hurting.
Findlay is not alone. Malls in Bowling Green and Tiffin have even lower occupancy rates and are struggling, too.
Iriti noted that retail is always the last part of the economy to recover following a recession, and the popularity of Internet shopping is having an impact on all retailers, not just those in malls.
Many shoppers aren’t running to the mall as often because it’s more convenient to shop online and have it delivered to your door.
Malls that are thriving tend to be the larger ones that developers have made a destination by locating a skating rink or amusement rides inside. Smaller ones, like Findlay’s, may have to be reinvented to compete with stand-alone stores, strip malls, and the Internet.
Stores, even of major retailers, will likely become smaller as chains adjust to changing shopping habits. Existing large retail spaces may be divided. One example where that is happening is Gabe’s, which recently moved into the former Home Depot building. It will be one of three tenants of the 90,000-square-foot building.
Findlay may not yet be right for Target, but it is too large to be without a mall. The right amount of promotion and the right mix of new retailers will allow the mall to remain the shopping anchor of Tiffin Avenue.
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