Suzanne Buchholz, Senior Reporter
Students who shop at South Hill Mall may have noticed some changes. Aeropostale is gone after the company filed for bankruptcy in 2016, and LensCrafters and American Eagle have moved to new locations.
LensCrafters is now across from Things Remembered and American Eagle’s next to Bath & Body Works. The section of the mall where these stores used to be now features a wall covered with posters advertising an H&M store that is expected to open fall 2017.
The new H&M location was announced in January. Once it opens, it will become one of the mall’s anchor stores like Target, Macy’s and JCPenney, meaning it’ll be one of the more prominent department stores in the mall. The store will feature a “store within a store” style familiar to other H&M locations with sections devoted to men’s and women’s fashion, kids’ clothes and accessories, according to an article by The Suburban Times.
“We had been in discussions for several years with H&M about opening a store at South Hill since before they opened their first store in the Puget Sound region,” Joe Corsell, west coast vice president of the Cafaro Company, said. “Timing is always an important factor in the shopping center industry, such as the right opportunity becoming available at the right time. The decision to open H&M at South Hill was based on the convergence of those two relatively simple factors: the mall having an appropriate space available to accommodate H&M at a time when they were ready to open a store in this market.”
In addition to the new H&M, South Hill Mall will also be changing the location of its Christopher & Banks store. The current location occupies two store spaces near Macy’s, but the new location near Target will occupy one space. Corsell said this is part of the company’s initiative to combine its store concepts into one new design.
This isn’t the first time South Hill Mall has undergone numerous renovations at once since opening in 1988. In 1992, the mall was expanded from about 500,000 square feet of space to more than 900,000 square feet and new anchor stores Sears, JCPenney and the Bon Marché (now Macy’s) were added. Originally the only three anchor stores at the mall were Target, Lamonts and Mervyn’s, the latter two of which no longer exist.
Since then the mall has been through other changes as well, such as the closure of other anchor stores and moving other stores to new locations around the mall. In 2005, the now-defunct Gottschalks anchor store shut down, and the store space was split into two and housed Circuit City and Linens n’ Things until both stores went bankrupt. The two stores merged back into one space when Dick’s Sporting Goods opened in 2010. At around the same time, JCPenney moved its women’s and children’s clothing departments into the old Mervyns’ location while the original location was converted into the men’s and housewares department.
One of the largest renovations to occur at South Hill Mall took place in 2009 and was a multi-million dollar project. Skylights were installed in the ceiling and the food court was redesigned to include a stone fireplace in the seating area. New entrances, flooring and signs were also part of the upgrade, giving the mall a different appearance by the time construction was complete.
Corsell said the update was meant to make the mall look more in harmony with the rest of the Pacific Northwest by keeping its appearance fresh.
“We believe the renovation was a welcomed update to the pastel colors and exposed neon accents that were popular during the period in which the mall was originally built,” Corsell said. “The intent was to create a fresh new atmosphere for the benefit of the community we serve that looks and feels warm and inviting. The feedback we received from the community after it was completed was all positive in that regard.”
Students said they shopped regularly at South Hill Mall. Some students said they chose to shop there because it’s easily accessible, since it’s close to the school and other malls such as Tacoma Mall require more time to travel.
“I shop there,” student Gillian Peterson said. “It’s the closest mall.”
Other students said they enjoyed the variety of stores there and were looking forward to the new additions coming to the mall.
“I think it’s exciting,” student Allissa Brewer said. “ I like H&M.”
Corsell said the introduction of new stores, construction and renovation are a continuous process in the mall industry, especially as retail stores try to keep up with the competition presented by online companies and keep customers coming to the mall. He said the company is optimistic about what South Hill Mall will have to offer in the future.
“The mall was developed and has been operated by the same ownership for over 30 years, and as a company we are well-positioned for the future despite the many challenges facing our industry today,” Corsell said. “We are a part of the Puyallup community and consider the mall as much a community center as it’s a shopping center. We pride ourselves on being good stewards of this community asset and will continue to work hard to make it a place that our friends and neighbors want to visit often.”
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