MERIDEN — Electronics retailer Best Buy, an anchor store at the Westfield Meriden mall, has reached an agreement with the mall and will remain open.
“They are not moving,” Meriden Mayor Manny Santos said Wednesday afternoon. “They told me they reached a fair agreement with Westfield and they are not closing ... the repercussions are actually pretty great because not only are they keeping their employees, but they are hiring additional employees for the holiday season.”
Best Buy officials announced at the end of September that the store would close Nov. 1. At the time, General Manager Nicole Bronson said “it was a real estate decision.” The closure would have left the mall with two large vacancies, along with the former J.C. Penney department store.
Jeff Shelman, a spokesman for the company, said that after the store contacted employees about the closure, “we were approached by the landlord about new terms on our lease,” and an agreement was reached late Tuesday.
Shelman could not comment on the terms of the lease, but said that it was “a significant reduction” in rent.
“Our goal is not to close stores,” Shelman said. “But in situations where we have leases expiring and the potential for renewal isn’t at market rate, there will be times when unfortunately we have to close stores, and this was one of those cases.”
Westfield Marketing Manager Katherine Bolas could not comment on the agreement Wednesday but said that Best Buy staying was a benefit to the mall.
David Cadden, a business professor at Quinnipiac University, said often stores will threaten to leave locations as a negotiating tactic.
“Stores will say they’ll move to another country, they’ll cut down numerous stores, they’ll do everything short of coming to your door and threatening you to get a better deal,” Cadden said. He said that this didn’t seem to be the case with Best Buy.
“This would be extreme,” Cadden said, considering the lengths to which the store went to proceed with its closure. “It would not appear to be a well-thought-out strategic ploy,” he added.
Midstate Chamber of Commerce President Sean Moore shared Cadden’s opinion.
“In this case, these are corporate attorneys who tend not to play those kinds of games,” Moore said. “This is a corporate decision, I don’t know that it was a strategy.”
Cadden added that strategy or not, employees are caught in the middle when a store decides to close.
“People may have already started to make plans,” Cadden said. “In some cases, people go for buyouts; you can’t sit down with everyone individually and negotiate.”
Best Buy employs 60 people, and is one of the largest stores in the mall. It occupies part of the space that was once the Lord & Taylor store.
Employees were expected to be assigned to nearby stores in Newington, North Haven and West Hartford once the Meriden location closed. Because of that expectation, Shelman said, there had not been much holiday hiring at those three locations, and none at the Meriden location.
“We’ll be looking to hire occasional seasonal employees at all of those stores,” Shelman said.
The Meriden store’s merchandise stock will also need to be replenished.
“We slowed down our replenishment rates,” Shelman said. “At this point, what’s gone is gone, so we’re going to need to get the store fully stocked, but that won’t be an issue after a couple days.”
Both Moore and the city’s economic development director, Juliet Burdelski, said they were waiting for confirmation from Westfield representatives.
“I think it’s really good news that we’ll continue to have a good presence from Best Buy at the mall, especially this time of year when electronics will be hot-ticket items for the holidays,” Burdelski said.
Read more articles like this and help support local journalism by subscribing to the Record Journal.
Unlimited Digital Access just 99¢
Read more articles like this by subscribing to the Record Journal.
Unlimited Digital Access for just 99¢