Northgate’s CompUSA store has closed

Mar. 04, 2013 @ 07:39 PM

Northgate Mall’s CompUSA computer and electronics store has closed, creating an approximately 20,000-square-foot vacancy in the independently owned mall.

Allison Savicz, a spokeswoman for Northgate, said the store had been in the mall for about five years. The store closed in late February, she said.

Kidcycle, a children’s consignment store, will temporarily open in the space in April, Savicz said. The store is expected to occupy the space into May.

Virginia Rand Bowman, managing general partner of Northgate Associates, which owns Northgate Mall, said in an email that CompUSA is consolidating the Durham store with a location in Raleigh.

“Like other categories such as office supplies and books, many people find it more convenient to order online than going to a store,” she said.

Attempts to reach officials at Systemax, the publicly traded company that acquired CompUSA in 2008, were unsuccessful Monday.

In September of last year, Systemax announced a plan to consolidate its U.S. consumer operations under the TigerDirect brand, its largest brand.

The company, which sells technology products such as computers, computer supplies, and consumer products as well as industrial products, had also purchased CircuitCity assets in 2009, and operated it as an online-only business.

As a result of the consolidation of the company’s U.S. consumer operations, the company expected to record one-time, non-cash impairment charges of $34 million related to intangible assets of CompUSA and Circuit City in the fourth quarter. The results from its fourth quarter are expected to be released today.

Bowman said centers across the country are seeing retail store closures.

“While we never like to see a store close, there are usually good reasons for it,” she said in the email. “We see it as an opportunity to continue to change the tenant mix by adding new stores to be more in tune with the current trends in the market.”

Closures at Northgate have included Northgate Books and the mall’s Lane Bryant location, which had been at the mall since 1990. Lane Bryant, is owned by the Ascena Retail Group, which also operates stores under the Dressbarn and other brands.

Bowman said that in addition to the Lane Bryant closure this year, Lane Bryant stores also closed in malls in Greensboro and in Winston-Salem.

The mall also saw the consolidation last year of its Dressbarn and Dressbarn Woman clothing stores into a single space that previously housed the women’s clothing and accessories store Talbots. Talbots had been a tenant of Northgate’s since 1994, and closed at the mall in August 2011.

“Dressbarn had wanted a combo store at Northgate for 10 years,” Bowman said. “We were finally able to find them the right location to make the move. Talbots continues to have problems chain-wide.”

Early last year, the mall also saw a long-term national tenant, Chick-fil-A, close. The national restaurant chain had been a tenant since 1974. A spokeswoman for the company said Chick-fil-A is focusing on freestanding locations with drive-throughs.

Andrew Jenkins, a managing partner at the Charlotte office of the real estate research firm Karnes, said in an email that Northgate’s vacancy rate was 3.7 percent at the end of 2012, but he said that doesn’t include several more recent vacancies.

The average vacancy among Triangle regional centers was 2.3 percent at the end of the year, Jenkins said.

Northgate is a “fairly small” regional mall with fewer anchor tenants compared to shopping centers such as Crabtree Valley Mall, Cary Towne Center, Triangle Town Center and The Streets at Southpoint, he said

“That will, of course, be a challenge as anchor tenants, by definition, help to increase the foot traffic at malls,” he said.

Jenkins said he believes the mall will continue to face pressure from newer centers throughout the region.

Bowman said competition comes from multiple sources, including Target, Walgreens and other stores. She said the trade area has been “over stored” since 2002.

“Name one shopping center in the Triangle area that has not had some turnover, and is 100 percent occupied,” she said.

Jesse Tron, a spokesman for New York-based International Council of Shopping Centers, said that according to data from the National Council of Real Estate Investment Fiduciaries, regional malls across the country were about 92 percent occupied at the end of the fourth quarter of 2012.

Tron said there is competition among shopping centers of different formats as well as from the Internet. He said malls are looking to be more than “just another channel for distribution of goods,” offering services not available online such as hair salons, massage studios or interactive pottery studios.

Tron added that it was more prevalent to see independent businesses opening up in malls during the recession. He said there’s still some of that happening, and more so at regional malls than at super-regional malls larger than 800,000 square feet.

“For a lot of centers, they’re going to be looking for those nationals, they’re able to pay higher rent,” Tron said.

Bowman said in the email that Northgate Mall has more independently owned stores than most regional because it’s is locally owned and operated, and likes to support local business owners.

“We believe they add much-needed diversity to the tenant mix,” she said.

Bowman said Northgate has had lots of potential tenants looking at the mall’s available space. She said they’ve had more prospects in the first two months of 2013 than in the first quarter of last year.