Citadel stores weathering the economic storm

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The CoStar Group, a commercial real estate marketing and information company, painted a bleak picture for enclosed malls in its first quarter 2009 National Retail Market Report.

“Several mall landlords have seen their properties go into receivership, while others suffer from high vacancy resulting from department stores and key junior anchor stores going dark, starting a ‘domino effect,'” the report said. “Additionally, several national retailers have chosen to discontinue specialty retail concepts, as well as downsize stores in an effort to cut operating expenses.”

So far, store managers like J.C. Penney’s Catherine Jones at The Citadel consider themselves “lucky,” especially compared to stores in more vulnerable parts of the country.

“We’re one of the top performers in the region,” she said. “That has a lot to do with the military here. They’re our customers. Whenever they’re back in town, our sales immediately reflect it.”

Likewise, the Burlington Coat Factory experienced a measurable surge in sales when it moved from its Citadel Crossing location two years ago.

Leasing broker Scott Gray of Cornerstone Real Estate said the in-mall location jettisoned the store into first place for its region.

Rainbow, an apparel store catering to young women, saw its February sales increase more than 20 percent compared to last year’s totals, said store manager Polly Brunelle.

“And we’re still doing well, even with Macy’s closure,” she said. “The Hooters’ entrance is still very busy. so our customers are still coming in.”