Meriden Mall evolves in response to retail trends

MERIDEN – Tattoo artist and shop owner Ray Ireland could have opened his third tattoo salon anywhere, but chose the Meriden Mall.

Friends and customers warned him the mall is “dead” – but the 18-year tattoo veteran liked the corner space on the lower level that once housed Regis Salon.

“I decided to come here to boost the morale of the mall,” Ireland said. “I have a following that will come here.”

Ireland opened Bloodlines Tattoo & Piercing with three employees about three weeks ago. He’s situated between a nail salon and eyebrow beauty shop, a corner that provides personal services instead of goods on racks and shelves.

“Though he is a new use to the Meriden Mall it has been very common to have this use in other malls,” said Mall Manager Chris Powers. “Ray has other mall locations. It is a great use. We currently have three nails salons and one brow services location, which have been here for some time and are very busy coming out of the pandemic. ”

The Meriden Mall on Lewis Avenue has recently become a state model in converting massive amounts of space to different uses as brick and mortar retail continues to evolve. Videos of dancers practicing routines on the upper floor in preparation for the May opening of the 7 8 Dinner Theater recently aired on local news.

“That’s going to be very interesting,” Economic Development Director Joseph Feest told city councilors this week. “It’s quite amazing.”

A seafood restaurant – More than Just Lobster – is opening in the food court. And the Meriden Public Library will have a temporary home in the space left vacant by Old Navy while it undergoes a renovation.

But the most dramatic change will be the conversion of the 180,000 square foot former Macy’s anchor store on the south side. Yale New Haven Health Services plans to convert it to a medical practice building. Yale New Haven is meeting with prospective tenants at the site to talk about their needs before construction begins.

“This is one of the largest investments in the city,” Feest recently told City Councilors. ” All the services and medical uses are here. That’s part of the change and the way I see (the Meriden Mall) growing, and (the Meriden Mall) leading the way. ”

There is also some good news on the retail horizon. According to the National Retail Federation, major US-headquartered retailers announced more than 8,100 new store openings, even as the pandemic continued to broadly upend the retail industry and the global supply chain.

The announced openings are more than double the number of closing announcements, which totaled roughly 3,950, according to analytical work by The Daily on Retail, a financially focused industry research platform used by the National Retail Federation.

The lower number of closing announcements reflects several factors, including large numbers of announcements in the prior several years, especially 2020, when The Daily on Retail tallied more than 10,700 closing announcements.

A rebound in consumer spending, along with pandemic-related lease renegotiations and balance sheet restructurings, also helped keep store closings down, according to the NRF.

But the Daily on Retail also reported the new store openings were skewed toward discounters, dollar stores, and membership clubs. Chains announcing new store openings includes Dollar General, Five Below, TJX, Burlington, Costco, Sam’s, BJ’s and Ross Stores.

In addition to dinner theaters, tattoo shops and medical practices, malls across the US are getting more creative. The need for large parking lots and vacant space turned some mall properties into COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites. A former Sears at Livingston Mall in Livingston, New Jersey, a Sears parking lot in Riverside, California, and at University Mall in Tampa, Florida, were all used as vaccination sites, according to Retail Dive, an online source for news and trends.

Epic Games, operator of the popular Fortnite, bought Cary Towne Center this year in Cary, North Carolina, with the intention of converting the mall property to its campus by 2024.

In the late 1990s, Lakes Church in Lakeland, Florida, purchased an entire mall. The shopping center, once home to Sam’s Club and Montgomery Ward, now houses one of the campuses for the congregation. Other churches have taken smaller pieces of malls.

Google announced in 2019 that it agreed to lease Westside Pavilion shopping center in Los Angeles for its office campus, dubbed One Westside. The mall is expected to be fully converted by 2022 and connects to the Los Angeles Metro’s Expo Line. Hudson’s Bay reportedly has plans to redevelop the Lord & Taylor store at the King of Prussia Mall into office space, according to a Philadelphia Business Journal report from late January.

Some locations have transformed spaces into warehouses for retail fulfillment. This trend started prior to the pandemic, but the need to accommodate online operations intensified due to COVID-19.

Some entrepreneurs are repurposing space in vacant stores for gaming. The Brass Mill Mall in Waterbury features five different escape rooms for birthday parties and team events.

Ireland, the tattoo shop owner, has Bloodlines shops in the Buckland Hills Mall in Manchester and at the Holyoke Mall in Massachusetts. He closed a shop in the Brass Mill Mall and plans to stay in Meriden.

“This is something that means something,” Ireland said about opening his shop. “It’s been really easy. Definitely one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. ”

[email protected]: @Cconnbiz

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