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Dayton Mall owner blasts Sears around bankruptcy filing

As Sears was preparing to file for bankruptcy late last week, the owner of the Dayton Mall and Mall at Fairfield Commons was planning its response.

Washington Prime Group issued a statement Friday explaining that the company has plans to handle Sears’ recent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

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“Tenants which have failed to evolve in order to satisfy an increasingly savvy consumer do not belong in our assets,” said Lou Conforti, Washington Prime’s CEO.

“For those who embrace this necessary dynamism, respect their demographic constituencies and practice good old-fashioned merchandising, we will bend over backwards by providing our robust infrastructure to ensure their success.”

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Washington Prime is planning or in discussion to redevelop 24 of the 28 Washington Prime-owned department store spaces that are deemed a threat to close, including some Sears stores.

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“We’ve worked diligently to address unproductive department store space over the previous couple of years, and recent reports of an imminent Sears bankruptcy filing shouldn’t come as a surprise to any landlord … ,” Conforti said in the statement.

As department stores become more risky among changing consumer shopping habits, Washington Prime has decreased traditional department store exposure by 50 percent since 2015. It has purchased eight Sears locations at Tier 1 malls this year.

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“We have the financial wherewithal to redevelop department store boxes … In addition, we need to disabuse the farcical notion of a Sears bankruptcy filing will come as a surprise to us. We have taken the appropriate financial, operational and strategic measures, and as a result regard such events as an opportunity,” Conforti said.

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