Danbury mall has tenant on deck for Forever 21 vacancy
Dick’s Sporting Goods is taking over a floor of Forever 21’s former storefront at Danbury Fair, filling one of multiple holes in the mall’s lineup as it looks to rebound from two months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dick’s opened at Danbury Fair in 2010, after mall owner Macerich partitioned the former Filene’s department store to accommodate new locations for Forever 21, L.L. Bean, The Cheesecake Factory and Brio Tuscan Grille. After Forever 21 closed in two stages last year as the result of bankruptcy, Brio Tuscan Grille followed suit in April in a filing at the height of the pandemic.
Unlike Forever 21, Dick’s and L.L. Bean lacked entrances from the mall’s concourses, which the Forever 21 expansion will fix for Dick’s. The store will now total 75,000 square feet of space, Macerich CEO executives told investment analysts this month.
It is a vote of confidence for the sports and outdoors retailer, despite an uncertain outlook for consumer spending amid massive job losses and cuts in pay in Connecticut and New York; and unanswered questions on how youth and adult sports will be impacted heading into the summer and the following school year. After bottoming out below $19 in March, shares of Dick’s traded at about $36 on Thursday, their price of last September before an upswing heading into the 2019 holidays.
“Retailers are much more cautious — they’re much more conservative,” Doug Healey, senior vice president of leasing for Macerich, said this month. “There’s a built-up, pent-up demand out there in the shopping community, and there’s ... a lot of excess inventory, so I think we’re going to see a lot of promotions upon opening.”
It is not the first time Dick’s has doubled down on Fairfield County during the Amazon era. The company kept a former Sports Authority store in Norwalk after acquiring the bankrupt chain in 2016 — it did not do the same with Sports Authority locations in Danbury and Bridgeport — while converting a big box golf store a short distance up Connecticut Avenue to its Golf Galaxy brand.
Despite losing the second half of March to closures in Connecticut, New York and elsewhere, Macerich recorded a $7.5 million profit for its fiscal quarter concluding at month’s end. But Macerich collected only 26 percent of April rents that had been due, though collections were improving as of mid-May.
“We’re having literally hundreds of discussions with our retailers and ... many of them are asking for rent deferral,” said CEO Tom O’Hern. “I would expect those conversations to go on and stretch out into June.”
Macerich has yet to identify replacements for other major vacancies including Brio, the Sears space on the mall’s western anchor pad, and the former Safavieh store which moved to South Norwalk. The mall reported an occupancy rate of 89 percent entering April.
J.C. Penney filed this month for bankruptcy protection from creditors. The department store retailer left the Danbury Fair mall store and others in Connecticut off an initial list of stores that could be closed if J.C. Penney is unsuccessful negotiating better lease terms.
Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-842-2545; @casoulman