MERIDEN —Customers can still order online for curbside pickup at Best Buy and Dicks Sporting Goods. Ruby Tuesday is serving meals to go and offering free delivery.
But the Westfield Meriden mall, which lost two of its three anchor stores in recent years, suffered another setback when the pandemic forced its total closure on March 19.
“Our most hopeful thoughts are with you, and we will be in touch very soon with our plans to reopen our doors and welcome you back,” mall manager Chis Powers said in a statement announcing the mall’s closure.”These are extremely challenging days for many, but we do believe that we will prevail together, our collective strength seeing us through this crisis.”
The remaining anchor store, Boscov’s department store, offers hope when the mall reopens. Boscov’s has remained in contact with its customers on Facebook, empathizing with those living in isolation, while inviting customers to shop online.
“Having everyone at home has its rewards and its challenges,” Jim Boscov wrote earlier this week. “We've tried to provide suggestions for activities for kids while they're home. In addition, I hope you've been able to join us on Facebook at 10 a.m each Saturday morning for Story Time.”
Boscov’s also announced changes in its merchandise, offerings deep discounts on furniture.
“The good news is that we've expanded the assortment and availability of merchandise on Boscovs.com.” Boscov wrote. “We're excited to be able to serve you with the pricing and selection you expect from Boscov's. We do have limited crews, strictly practicing social distancing, who are working to fulfill your orders, so I hope you'll be patient if we take a little longer than normal.”
Retailers reported an 8.7 percent drop in sales in March and are already down an additional 6 percent in April.
“These businesses and these employees need more protection from the federal government,” National Retail Federation President Matthew Shay told FOX News media this week. “It’s been uneven and inconsistent. I know they are working on it.”
While Boscov’s remains eager to open, the question remains — will shoppers return?
“The department store category seems to be in trouble,” said John Clapp, a retired finance/real estate business professor at the UConn School of Business. “They are offering other items people can buy at deep discounts.”
Retail overgrowth put the industry in trouble even before Amazon disrupted consumer buying habits, Clapp said.
An option for Wesfield is to challenge its property tax assessment with the city, arguing that the vacancies and the economy have depreciated the mall’s value. Macy’s and Sears, which own their vacant properties, could also appeal their assessments. The mall is among the city’s largest taxpayers.
“This is happening all over the state,” Clapp said about retailers appealing their assessments.
Clapp has been working with local governments to help malls adapt by changing zoning to high-density residential or entertainment and recreation. Most malls are in prime locations, near highways or transit centers.
The city has anticipated potential swings from retail to other uses at the mall property by implementing flexible zoning in its most recent Plan of Conservation and Development. Clapp said the city is moving in the right direction.
"We would always love to see a restaurant, movie theater. A college could use it," City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest said about Macy’s closure in March. "It does open up other avenues because of the size.”
Stores currently open at Westfield Meriden mall:
Dick’s Sporting Goods - Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Curbside pick-up only.
Best Buy – Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Curbside pick-up only.
Ruby Tuesday – Hours: Noon to 8 p.m. Delivery/take-out only.
Check individual store websites for online shopping availability and delivery