“Sears like many of those kind of chain stores are facing increased competition from online retailers and a lot of brick and mortar stores are having a hard time making it,” said Bill Even, economics professor at Miami University. “The things that people used to get at Sears they can get fairly easily online.”
But Sears likely decided to keep Springfield because it owns the space and nearly 13 acres at the Upper Valley Mall, said German Twp. planning and zoning director George Degenhart.
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Sears leases most of its properties from malls themselves or Seritage Growth Properties, the real estate investment company spun off from Sears Holdings in 2015.
“Some of the stores that they closed probably drive more traffic than we do,” Degenhart said. “This is a property management decision, not a retail decision.”
Sears also has very little competition, being the only remaining anchor at the Upper Valley Mall. Sears’ partnership to install tires shoppers buy on Amazon has also seen some success across the nation, including Springfield’s Auto Center.
But if Sears Holding Corp. does find a bidder to take over the Springfield store, it could limit the options for future development that would make the property better for the community. But all opportunities are still on the table, Degenhart said.
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“We hope they’re successful. We hope they go along with the new plan whatever it may be. No one’s ever really asked them to leave. We just wanted always a decision…and apparently right now they’re staying,” Hale said, adding that Sears could greatly benefit from the development if they’re willing to go along with it.
The city is considering all options, Degenhart said, including reusing the mall buildings or tearing it down and starting again. He said he wants to space to be a gathering place for the area where everyone can find something they want to do.
“If we can drive traffic, everything else will take care of itself,” he said. “If you’ve got a music venue or a sports venue, if that brings people, it will even drive retail again,” Degenhart said.
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