When Levin Management took over leasing and management of Fairlane Village Mall in 2006, economic forces and trends were running heavily against small-market malls like the 405,000-square-foot-square-foot Pottsville property. Six years later, new Kohl’s Department Store has just opened, Michaels Arts and Crafts will open later this year, and evidence appears strong that this is a repositioning that worked.
“The industry consensus had been that the days of the small-market malls were numbered, but we think differently,” David Silver, Levin’s corporate director of marketing, “Of course, it is going to be location-specific, but we were able to keep this property alive despite the economic crash that hit retail across the country, and the closing of Value City, which occupied nearly 20% of the Fairlane Village Mall’s GLA with 80,000 square feet.”
“Now, we think retail leasing in general is starting to pick up again,” he says. At the Pottsville mall, Kohl’s opened a 58,000-square-foot store, and Michael’s has leased a 22,000-square-foot space.
Initially, Kohl’s indicated a disinterest in small markets like Pottsville, Silver notes. When the chain opened a store in another small-market mall in Pennsylvania last year, however, Levin Management produced a demographic study that compared the two markets and showed income levels within a five-mile radius were comparable at $55,000, and that the Pottsville area population is growing again.
Based on census figure projections, Silver says that Schuylkill County will see 1.6% growth in population from 2011 to 2016, after a decade of decline. Average household income for the county grew 36.8% between 2000 and 2011, and is expected to increase another 12.3% by 2016.
“Of course, the success we have had in attracting other national retailers to the property over the past six years also helped to solidify the mall’s desirability for Kohl’s,” says Silver. “Since we took over responsibility for the mall, we have brought in Harbor Freight Tools, Dollar Tree, Super Shoes and Amelia’s Discount Grocery, among others.”
As it has with other suburban enclosed mall properties in the Northeast, Levin recommended the hiring of an onsite marketing director to develop programming and enhance Fairlane Village’s visibility.
“Consumer traffic soared once a lively schedule of activities, including everything from holiday promotions and blood drives, to fundraisers for charities and local schools, to craft festivals, art exhibits, bridal expos and diversity fairs was arranged,” says Silver. “Fairlane Village Mall truly has become deeply connected with the daily life of Schuylkill County, which is a key to suburban mall success.”