Thursday, December 31, 2009

Vintage Postcards: Sunrise Mall Citrus Heights

Sunrise Mall in Citrus Heights, just outside Sacramento, California, opened in 1972. It was the area's premier shopping destination with Weinstock's anchoring the north mall, JC Penney and Liberty House to the east, and Sears occupying the south mall.

Macy's acquired the Liberty House location in 1984 and Weinstock's in 1995.

This postcard is postmarked 1987 and most likely was taken from the Macy's court, looking northward towards Weinstock's.

The back of the postcard reads: "Ultra modern, enclosed air conditioned complex affords shopping in comfort. Citrus Heights, California."

The coloring of the postcard appears yellowish, perhaps from fading. The ubiquitous Jarman appears on the right. The court features tiers of flowers, topped with four oversized electric candles.

The geometric patterns on the ceiling and lighting reminds me of Krypton in the movie Superman. The ceiling was heavily remodeled in 1999 and the only reminder of these patterns is the tiled floor, which was barely touched by the 1999 remodel.


Visit my review of Sunrise Mall.

See the current aerial view.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Northgate Mall Grand Opening - Targets LEED Certificiation

The hottest and freshest shopping center renovation to hit the Bay Area retail scene is Northgate Mall in San Rafael. Celebrating its grand opening Thursday November 12, 2009, Northgate Mall will show off its clerestory atrium, new food court, and Oak Tree Plaza exterior portion of the mall.

Kohl's celebrated its grand opening at Northgate on September 30, 2009, replacing the Mervyns that closed earlier in the year.

Macerich, the owner and operator of Northgate, has paid special attention to the rebuilding of the mall to today's "green" standards. In fact, Macerich is in process of obtaining the coveted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for its efforts to use sustainable building practices (Macerich, 2009).

What is LEED?
According to the U.S Green Building Council:

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts. (U.S. Green Building Council, 2009, Para. 1).

Macerich has taken an important step towards the future with something almost unknown in the mall world... sustainability. Who has not heard of paving paradise to put up a parking lot? Yet, by paying special attention to building practices and obtaining LEED certification, Macerich is showing us that malls are not so bad after all.

I for one applaud Macerich for "going green." Shop Northgate.


See some pre-renovation photos at my guide to Northgate Mall.

Macerich (2009). Social Responsibility: Sustainability. Retrieved November 02, 2009, from

U.S. Green Building Council (2009). Intro - What LEED Is. Retrieved November 02, 2009, from

Friday, October 30, 2009

Capwell's El Cerrito Plaza Grand Opening 1958

July 9, 1958 marked the grand opening of both Capwell's department store and adjoining El Cerrito Plaza. This advertisement from the Oakland Tribune invites the public to come shop the largest store in Contra Costa County.

The 2-level store cost $6,000,000 and was 232,000 square feet of spacious aisles and modernistic fixtures ("5,000 Flock to See New Capwell Store", 1958). The exterior of the store was equally modern with its blue and brown tile. At the time, Capwell's El Cerrito was the fourth store in the chain, with other locations in Oakland (downtown), Walnut Creek (Broadway Plaza), and Hayward (downtown).

Capwell's El Cerrito lasted until 1996 when the chain was acquired by Macy's and ultimately closed. El Cerrito Plaza fell in to disrepair until it was de-malled and revitalized in 2002.


5,000 Flock to See New Capwell Store. (1958, June 10, 1958). Oakland Tribune, p. E-15.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Westfield Downtown Plaza - Sacramento

Nothing breeds retail controversy more than Sacramento's Westfield Downtown Plaza.

This large superregional center, smack in downtown Sacramento, was once a shining beacon. However, times have changed and this mall has not. Sacramento and Westfield has been fighting for years to get this center redeveloped. Everyone has an idea of what they want, but no one can agree.

Once this mall hosted a number of flagship stores for the region. The area's largest Macy's is here, complete with its own Men's and Furniture location. Yet, stores have begun to shut down. Even Banana Republic left. Much of the eastern side of the mall is devoid of any stores. However, the western side is still bustling.

The architecture of this mall seems to be a hindrance. Sightlines are obscured by large columns. With the contrast between bright sunlight and dark overhangs, its nearly impossible to see the stores from a distance.

With Sacramento's scalding long summers, I could easily support enclosing this mall. In fact, a portion of this mall is enclosed. A long corridor south of the Rotunda court is enclosed. However, it may not have been touched since the 80s. Oddly enough, it has a second floor which used to contain stores, but it is no longer accessible. An enclosed corridor north of the Rotunda court, pictured above, now is a credit union and no longer holds retail stores. Note the fancy woodwork on the ceiling.

Baffling enough, I don't know if this mall strives to be a festival center, much like Pier 39 in San Francisco, or a regional fashion center. Looking around, not many people live Downtown.

I'm not sure what to think of Downtown Plaza. Once it finds its identify and redevelops, I think this mall can be a star of retail players.


See the current aerial view.

Westgate Mall - Holding Its Own

Westgate Mall in San Jose is a small mall that seems to defy the odds. Malls this size around the country are either failing or struggling. However, Westgate Mall seems to be thriving.

Unusual for malls these days, but common yesteryear, is the connection this mall has to the community. You can still get your hair done at Annette's Silhouettes, get your teeth cleaned at Westgate Dental, then head to Razzberry Lips for a makeover party for the girls. Local independent stores, once a thing of the past in a mall, perhaps a trend for the future?

As a regional draw, Nordstrom Rack, Burlington Coat Factory, Ross Dress for Less, and Barnes and Noble Bookstore. A little something for everyone.

Saving the best for last... this mall is rarely crowded. One can walk around without being molested by Dead Sea Salt hawkers or hoards of people. Westgate Mall is easy to get into and you might want to stay a while.


Visit my review of Westgate Mall.

See the current aerial view.

Bayfair Mall - New Food Court

One word to describe Bayfair Mall's new food court... Finally!

Having survived the high-crime days of Bayfair Mall that made me hesitate to enter any niche without a secondary escape route, it was a pleasant surprise to find the new food court opened and ready for business.

The food court has been reconfigured and looks like it may only hold 4 to 6 eateries, but it's a huge improvement. The owners also removed one of the enclosing stores at the entrance to the food court, which opened up the food court to the mall, thus eliminating that claustrophobic feeling that once persisted.

In addition, the clunky elevator has been replaced by a set of escalators to the newly reopened second floor. You may remember when the old owners built a wall, sealing off that long second-floor corridor between the center court and the south parking lot. The wall has come down and now it's an easy walk to the cinema across the parking lot. I'd bet the old owners of this mall are kicking themselves for not attaching the cinema to the mall.

Remodeling at Bayfair has been ongoing for 5 years now. Still, the center is about 50-60% complete. Now that the food court is done, what next?


Visit my review of Bayfair Mall.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Grand Century Shopping Mall - San Jose

Another micromall in the Silicon Valley, the Grand Century shopping mall in San Jose caters to the Vietnamese market. Grand Century hosts 74 stores inside the mall. A true community shopping center, you can get your hair cut, your teeth cleaned, pick up a $3,000 diamond ring, then have Phở while visiting with friends and loved ones.

All the eateries were grouped together on the west side of the mall, forming a long food court. We found an extensive selection of Vietnamese cuisine served by friendly people. Ignorant of local favorites, I played it safe by pointing to a picture of soup. Yet, nearly everyone was enjoying a big plate of greens that appeared like the big salad on steroids. Someone please explain it to me.

As far as micromalls go, Grand Century was much larger than I expected. Although the building is similar in size to the Wal-Mart next door. The parking lot was crowded and the mall, at times, filled with people. The community seems to love this mall.

Once again I'm baffled that ethnicity or culture plays a role in mall appreciation. While malls this size in middle America have died or are dying, Asian micromalls are enjoying popularity.


See the aerial view.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lawrence Plaza - Santa Clara

I have always been intrigued with small enclosed malls and recently stumbled upon Lawrence Plaza in the Koreatown district of Santa Clara, California. Located at 3561 El Camino Real, a large sign was hung outside stating "Food Court." Food sounds good, so we gave it a try...

The exterior is a typical suburban strip mall and it looks like the enclosed mall was originally one or two remodeled anchors, such as a grocery store or drug store. The enclosed food court debuted in August of 2008.

Inside the mall is a large seating area for dining and flanked by a number of eateries. Most of the selections are Korean, but you will find other choices, too (like Fondue). A walkway loops from the north side of the food court to the south side of the food court. We found cell phones, electronics, baby clothes, facial products, golf items, and more. We counted about 17 stores in the enclosed mall. Surprisingly, we found only one vacant store.

The pictures above are of the modest exterior, the food court itself, and a bit of the loop walkway.

How can a tiny mall like this do so well in Koreatown, but would disappear like a bad cold elsewhere?


See the aerial view.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cupertino Square on Life Support

It's not looking so good for Cupertino Square mall.

The mall is now neck-in-neck for title of "most drama" in the South Bay retail market (Sunnyvale Town Center current holds the title).

Cupertino Square currently is under control of the lenders, Gramercy Capital and United Commercial Bank. When the old owners, Cupertino Square LLC and Vallco International Shopping Center LLC, stopped making debt payments, the lenders moved to foreclose on the property. However, Cupertino Square LLC and Vallco International Shopping Center LLC filed bankruptcy to keep the mall from going back into the hands of the lenders. Yet, last month, the mall went back into the hands of the lenders anyway. Now Gramercy Capital and United Commercial Bank are working with Jones Lang LaSalle to get the mall back on track.

My visit the other day showed the mall is declining quickly. A few more stores have closed since last month, but more concerning, new eateries in the freshly revamped food court have already closed! Not to mention, the "coming soon" signs for new eateries STILL say coming soon. I don't think anyone is coming soon anymore.

All this is such a shame... the mall has been trying, but has it made some wrong decisions?

Cupertino Square LLC and Vallco International Shopping Center LLC sought to reposition this mall as an Asian-inspired destination (east Asian). However, my informal racial profiling of shoppers showed that a majority of shoppers fell into the Caucasian and Indian segments. Did repositioning the mall alienate these groups?

What about capital improvement? The mall built a fancy new parking garage for the hordes of shoppers it expected, but the old pink and turquoise "Vallco Fashion Park" sign still adorns Interstate 280. The fourth picture shows the entrance to the food court... As you can see, no signs. I would have figured investing in improvments to guide shoppers to your mall would take priority over potential parking problems.

Some fresh photos for your perusal. The first is the quiet food court at noon. CNN blares on the LCD TVs... a good reason to leave when trying to enjoy your lunch over the pictures of death, dismemberment, and unrest.
Second photo... the deserted parking lot on the backside of the mall.
Third photo... the unusual architecture of JC Penney.
Fourth photo... food court entrance.


Read my guide to Cupertino Square

See the aerial view.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Somersville Towne Center Teetering on the Edge

Some recent photos of Somersville Towne Center in Antioch. Hoping to catch the 90% off sale at Gottschalks liquidation, we found the store already shuddered. Alas, too late.

For a Saturday, the mall appears nearly deserted. Although it looks worse than it really was, one has to question the viability of a mall with little foot traffic. Since our last visit a few years ago, a number of shops have closed. However, this mall isn't "dead," yet.

With few options for a new department store to take the place of the shuddered Mervyns or Gottschalks, Somersville Towne Center could be on the endangered list. However, JC Penney is no where to be found in east county, so perhaps this will be a new opportunity after the economy recovers. Yes, it's ironic since Penney's left the mall in 1997. But with the competitors gone, who knows what can happen.

Enjoy the photos,

Read my guide to Somersville Towne Center

Visit the current Web site.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Vintage Directories: Hillsdale Mall 1982

Here is a vintage mall directory from Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo, California. I estimate it to be from around 1982 since I picked up this directory on my way to the record store to buy the Taco single "Putting on the Ritz." Yes, that's dated in itself.

The mall directory is printed on heavy stock paper, but is not in color. It was clearly cut with a pair of scissors, too.

You may need to put on your bifocals to read the store names. This shear size of this directory stretched Photoshop to the limit. I intended to post the front side of the directory, too, but it was just too big. Another day, perhaps.


Read my guide to Hillsdale Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Vintage Postcards: Eastridge Mall

A vintage postcard of Eastridge Mall, complete with the ubiquitous Jarman.

In the rear you can see Liberty House.

The back of the postcard reads "The "Grand Court" area of the Eastridge regional shopping center in San Jose, California, features modern shaped plexiglass information booth and a spectacular sculpture in steel by the world famous sculptress, Stephanie Scuris. The center, which is constructed on three levels, boasts four major department stores and 146 other stores."


See the current aerial.

Visit my review of Eastridge Mall.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Gottschalk's Liquidating

It's official... Fresno-based Gottschalk's failed to attract a buyer at its auction and will begin liquidating. Gottschalk's assets have been sold to a group of liquidators and the going out of business-sales will begin around April 3rd.

Malls affected by the store closures include Capitola Mall in Capitola, West Valley Mall in Tracy, Sherwood Mall in Stockton, Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto, Country Club Plaza Mall in Sacramento, Somersville Towne Center in Antioch, Coddingtown Mall in Santa Rosa, and Carson Mall in Carson City, NV.

Later, a closer look at the store closures.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Capitola Mall

After a long respite, I finally enjoyed a trip to Capitola Mall in the seaside community of Capitola, near Santa Cruz. It's been nearly a decade since my last visit and the mall hadn't changed much, except for the infusion of new stores and fading of old ones.

The mall was just about the right size for a short outing and had a nice selection of stores. Some upscale, some moderate, and plenty in between. I managed to pick up a few bargains along the way.

As expected, the corridor heading to the now-defunct Mervyn's was loosing stores. However the newly "dead" corridor ought to turn around when Kohl's opens later this year.

The photos here are the rejects. The ones that made the cut can be found on my main site, below.

The first photo is of the old Mervyn's and one for the scrapbook. Ultimately changing to Kohl's, we get a last glimpse of the Mervyn's California signage before it becomes a labelscar.

The second photo is the late 80s Gottshalk's, complete with 80s colors and glass bricks. This store is a step-back in time, in many ways. Almost unbelievable, along with the old-fashioned, take-your-time help inside, Tom Jones was blaring overhead with "It's Not Unusual To Be Loved By You." I tried in haste to get my camera on movie mode with sound to share the experience. Alas, the song ended and I moved on with my 40% off purchases.

The third photo is of the fountain and complementary lighted "skylight" above. The contrast made this photo too dark. However, I believe it to be accurate in what the eye actually saw. This mall was very dark in places, especially in the old wing, where this fountain is located.

The final photo is the main corridor between the old wing and new wing. Yes, kiosks hawking their Dead Sea salt or scrolls, or whatever wares. It was crowded and made the mall look cluttered. I realize mall owners need to capitalize on every square inch, but at some point, people need some wiggle room!

All-in-all, Capitola Mall was pleasant and I do recommend it for a visit. It's quieter and more laid-back than the urban Bay Area and is a nice reminder of what it used to be like.

I hope you enjoy the photos!


Read my Guide to Capitola Mall

Visit the current Website.

See the aerial view.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Westfield Cutting Mall Hours

In response to the economic recession, Westfield has cut shopping hours at all area malls.

Westfield Solano in Fairfield now has the following hours:
Monday - Friday: 10:30 AM to 8:30 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Sunday: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Previously, the mall opened at 10:00 AM Monday - Friday and stayed open until 7:00 PM on Sunday.

Westfield Oakridge in San Jose now has the following hours:
Monday - Friday: 10:30 AM to 9:00 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Sunday: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Previously, the mall opened at 10:00 AM Monday - Friday and stayed open until 9:30 PM. Weekend hours were unchanged.

Westfield Valley Fair in San Jose now has the following hours:
Monday - Friday: 10:30 AM to 9:00 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Sunday: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Previously, the mall opened at 10:00 AM Monday - Friday and stayed open until 9:30 PM. On Sunday, the mall used to be open until 7:00 PM.

Westfield San Francisco Centre in San Francisco now has the following hours:
Monday - Saturday: 10:00 AM to 8:30 PM
Sunday: 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Previously, the mall opened at 9:30 AM Monday - Friday and stayed open until 9:00 PM. On Saturday, the mall used to open at 9:30 AM and stayed open until 9:00 PM. On Sunday, the mall used to open at 10:00 AM.

Westfield Downtown Plaza in Sacramento now has the following hours:
Monday - Friday: 10:30 AM to 8:00 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Sunday: 12:00 PM to 6:00 PM

Previously, the mall opened at 10:00 AM Monday - Friday and stayed open until 9:00 PM. On Sunday, the mall used to open an hour earlier at 11:00 AM.

Westfield Roseville Galleria in Roseville now has the following hours:
Monday - Friday: 10:30 AM to 8:30 PM
Saturday: 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Sunday: 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM

Previously, the mall opened at 10:00 AM Monday - Friday and stayed open until 9:00 PM. On Sunday, the mall used to stay open until 7:00 PM.

Gottschalk's Granted Extension

Fresno-based Gottschalk's has been granted an extension to March 30 to find a buyer (Sacramento Business Journal, 2009).

The struggling retailer is on the auction block to find a buyer. The chain says it has received multiple potential buyers (Sacramento Business Journal, 2009). The highest bidder will determine the fate of the department store. Those plans will not be revealed until the deal is done.

The big question is, who is interested? Rumors range from Wal-Mart to Dillard's. It could be an investment group, like the group that bought Mervyn's. At the end of the month, we'll find out.


Sacramento Business Journal (2009). All Gottschalks gets auction extension. Retrieved March 06, 2009, from

Circuit City Closing Permanently on Sunday March 8th

It's official, Circuit City is closing all remaining stores this Sunday, March 8, 2009 (Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, 2009).

Once the nation's second largest consumer electronics store (Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, 2009), Circuit City's demise leaves just one major player, Best Buy. Many smaller chains, like Fry's, serve smaller markets to keep Best Buy from becoming a monopoly.

On Sunday, we say farewell.


Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal (2009). All Circuit City stores to shutter permanently on March 8. Retrieved March 06, 2009, from

Friday, February 20, 2009

Gottschalks Granted a Reprieve

Looks like Gottschalks is safe, at leat for now, due to a $125 million debtor-in-possession credit agreement (Johnson, 2009). The additional money will allow Gottschalks to continue operations during its reorganization process.

What we expect is store closures to boost Gottshalks' balance sheet. The real question is, which ones? Smaller stores are likely targets; even if profitable. Revenues from smaller stores typically aren't enough to keep a company Gottschalks' size afloat.

Stay tuned for more Gottschalks' information as it becomes available.


Johnson, K. (2009). Gottschalks gets court's OK on $125M credit line. Sacramento Business Journal. Retrieved from

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Taubman's Unethical Act in Walnut Creek

In an earlier post regarding the petition in Walnut Creek to stop Neiman Marcus from joining Broadway Plaza, the financial backer of the signature gathering effort has been revealed. Unsurprisingly, it's the Taubman Group... owner of nearby Sunvalley Mall in Concord.

According to Elisabeth Nardi, the reporter at the Contra Costa Times covering the issue, Taubman spent nearly $95,000 to fund the petition (Nardi, 2009).

Taubman filed a campaign statement with the city on the 2nd of February. The statement showed nearly $80,000 was paid to Al Abrams, a public relations consultant, who misrepresented himself to Walnut Creek residents by claiming to be a real estate journalist when trying to persuade residents to reject the project (Nardi 2009). The sticking point was the popular "parking issue" that Neiman Marcus would bring to downtown Walnut Creek.

The campaign statement went on to state Taubman's new reason for stopping the project was due to, "fundamental fairness" (Nardi). Taubman claims that it "wanted to make sure it was a level playing field for all local development interests and were concerned about a bad precedent being set by the special approvals Broadway Plaza received in Walnut Creek" (Nardi, ¶ 6).

Mayor Gary Skrel is optimistic about the project and has faith in Walnut Creek resident being "smart enough to know what is really going on" (Nardi, 2009, ¶ 9).

Taubman, possibly encouraged from the recent election that demonstrated out-of-state special interest groups can use the intiative process to determine California's future, is sending a powerful message to Walnut Creek residents. Simply said, Michigan-based Taubman, who has no business in Walnut Creek, has decided it has the moral authority to decide what Walnut Creek should do and believe. The recipe is simple. Add one part deception (misrepresentation), a heaping of fear ("parking will get worse!") and a liberal dose of secrecy to manipulate voters to seal the deal.

Unfortunately for Taubman, Californians are an educated bunch that ultimately learn the truth and do the right thing.


Nardi, E. (2009, February 02). Rival mall company financed campaign against Neiman Marcus. Contra Costa Times. Retrieved February 05, 2009 from:

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Sacramento Landlords Picking Out Gottschalk's Casket

In another sign of its impending doom, landlords and commercial brokers in the Sacramento region are pondering the future of Gottschalk's sites. According to Kelly Johnson (2009) "Some landlords are already shopping their space to other retailers" (¶ 7). We'll know in a month if we hail them as smart or pity them as dumb. Gottschalk's has until mid-March to find a buyer or financing, or it's kaput for them.

Speaking of pity... the owner of Country Fair Mall in Woodland, Raymond Arjmand, "is convinced Gottschalks isn’t going anywhere" (Johnson, 2009, ¶7). I've got a pretty orange bridge for sale, too.

Last week, Macy's shed 1,400 jobs, which shows its not in any position to expand. What buyer would have the capital, credit, or gumption to buy Gottschalk's in time?

In the Sacramento metro, Gottschalk's has locations in Sacramento (Country Club Plaza Mall), Davis (University Mall), Woodland (Country Fair Mall), Elk Grove, and Auburn.

I'll miss the ole' store.


Johnson, K. (2009). Brokers consider future of local Gottschalks sites. Sacramento Business Journal. Retrieved February 04, 2009 from:^1770511&ana=e_vert

Outlet Malls Thriving in Bad Times

It seems as the economy continues to flounder, shoppers are heading to outlet malls in droves. In an analysis of foot traffic during Black Friday weekend 2009 compared to 2008, foot traffic at all U.S. retail establishments fell 19.3% while traffic at the outlet centers owned by Prime Retail was up 8.3% (Misonzhnik, 2009). Chelsea Property Group, owned by Simon Property Group, reported an net operating income (NOI) increase of 7.7% for its outlets in 2009 over 2008 (Misonzhnik).

Although shoppers, faced with a decline in discretionary income, are cutting back spending, many instead are turning to the better deals perceived to be offered by outlet stores.

The Bay Area has a number of outlet malls within a two hour drive, including the popular Gilroy Premium Outlets and Vacaville Premium Outlets, both owned by Chelsea Property Group. The Great Mall, with nearly 200 stores, is both convenient and loaded with bargains. Smaller outlet malls, like Napa Premium Outlets and Petaluma Village Premium Outlets, are still worth the drive.

Sacramento has the Folsom Premium Outlets, which is a personal favorite of mine. I'd swear people there won't buy long-sleeved shirts due to the long summers. For me, it's a bonanza of selection.

The Central Valley has the Tracy Outlets, but I'm no longer impressed with its selection.

Although the retail industry is suffering a serious downtown that continues unabated, the shining star for shoppers is the nearest outlet mall.

Misonzhnik, E. (2000), Room to Grow (1/29). Retail Traffic. Retrieved February 04, 2009 from:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Country Club Plaza Mall, Heading Towards Disaster?

Country Club Plaza Mall, Sacramento's most vulnerable mall, has the highest vacancy rates (30.6%) than any other mall in the metro area.

But is the news all that bad?

The recently remodeled 600,000 sq. ft. shopping center has been finding its niche among power players in the area, including the Roseville Galleria and Arden Fair mall. Soon after the remodel of the mall, occupancy rates were at 51%. Currently, with 49 potential stores, 15 spaces are empty (in red above), which lowers the vacancy rate to 30.6%. Exterior pads were not considered in this statistic.

I'm examining this mall because it's home to the only Gottschalk's in the Sacramento region. The impact of Gottschalk's closing is purely speculative. However, Country Club Plaza is unique in its own rite. Very rarely do you see investors willing to pony up money for an enclosed mall this size.

We'll keep an eye on this mall to gauge the retail economic conditions in Sacramento.


Capitola Mall Holding Its Own

Another mall to keep an eye on is Capitola Mall in Capitola California.
This roughly 586,000 sq. ft. enclosed mall is a dominate player in the Santa Cruz region, but lost Mervyn's late last year. With the impending Gottschalk's failure, the mall will have lost two of its four anchor tenants.

The above image, taken today from Maerich's Web site, shows the mall with 96 potential stores. At this time, 12 space are unoccupied (in red), leaving a 12.5% vacancy rate. Anything to be concerned about at this time? Not so much.

We'll keep a close eye on this center for changes in occupancy.


Will Somersville Towne Center Survive?

Somersville Towne Center, a roughly 500,000 sq. ft. enclosed mall in Antioch California, is one of the Bay Area's most vulnerable malls. With the departure of Mervyn's late last year and possible closing of the Gottschalk's chain in 2009, the mall will have lost half its anchor tenants.

It's no secret that malls suffer after loosing an anchor. But loosing two anchors often signals the end of any shopping center. Remember San Mateo Fashion Island mall, which was demolished after loosing two of its four anchor tenants?

The above images, taken from Somersville Towne Center's current store directory, shows a total of 67 potential stores (exterior strip and interior mall). Currently, 13 space are unoccupied (in red), leaving a 19.4% vacancy rate.

We'll keep a close eye on this mall as an economic indicator of retailing in the Bay Area.


Friday, January 16, 2009

So Long Circuit City

It's official... Circuit City has filed in Bankruptcy Court to liquidate its assets. They hope to begin the liquidation on Saturday.

For some, this comes as no surprise. Circuit City has been on the long road to a slow death. In addition to a poor marketing positioning, Best Buy is just knocking the pants off these guys.

In November 2007, Circuit City laid off about 3,400 workers, then offered them to come back for a lower pay rate. What a great way to motivate your sales staff. It doesn't take a Business major to know that was a dirty move.

In 2008 Circuit City closed some of its stores in an attempt to "fix" some of its problems. However, management never came up with a viable marketing plan. It takes more than closing stores to fix what's broken.

So now we have just one electronics retailer... Best Buy. What's a monopoly to do?


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Innovative Marketing Means Free Imbibement for Men

My award for most innovative marketing scheme for 2008 goes to Reno's Meadowood Mall, which sought to entice male shoppers with its "Free Beer" campaign.

Yes, FREE beer... for one-night only (sorry folks, you already missed it; it was December 22, 2008).

Male shoppers, who have been unfairly stereotyped as selfish, are suddenly finding themselves with a reward for thinking of others.

According to Siobhan McAndrew (2008), men who register with guest services will receive a ticket for a free beer at Bully’s Sports Bar (in the mall), a coupon for free gift wrapping of purchases made at the mall, and a chance to win prizes, including a TV and gift certificates, from mall merchants.

The marketing manager was thinking ahead. Male shoppers needed to be present for the prize drawings that occurred at 8 P.M.

Weeks after the program expired, we are still waiting to hear if the marketing program worked, but I suspect it did.

In other news, female shoppers at Meadowood Mall are rewarded with free tap water, wrapping their own gifts, no prizes, and tired feet.


McAndrew, S. (2008, December 18). Meadowood Mall offering free beer for men on Monday night. Reno Gazette-Journal. Retrieved from

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Retail Sales Down, But Not That Much

Okay, the U.S. Commerce Department released their adjusted retail sales numbers and retail sales were down 2.7% between November and December 2008.

Whew! That's not so bad. We all knew they weren't going to be up.

However, some retail experts are predicting 2009 to be even worse than 2008. Alas, the naysayers are more interesting to our news outlets.


Gottschalk's - A Goner?

Gottschalk's of Fresno filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday morning. The chain had put itself on the market in late 2006, but has not found any interested suitors.

Gottschalk's has stores at Antioch's Somersville Towne Center, Capitola's Capitola Mall, Carson City's Carson Mall, Modesto's Vintage Faire Mall, Sacramento's Country Club Plaza Mall, Santa Rosa's Coddingtown Mall, Stockton's Sherwood Mall, and Tracy's West Valley Mall. Both Capitola Mall and Somersville Towne Center just lost their fourth anchor, Mervyn's, last year.

As with many retailer bankruptcies, unprofitable stores are usually closed. If Gottschalk's was to close any of the above mall locations, we could easily see devastating results. Somersville Towne Center, Captiola Mall, Carson Mall, and Country Club Plaza Mall may all go under. Sherwood Mall and Coddingtown Mall would be seriously threatened. However, Vintage Faire Mall and West Valley Mall ought to be strong enough to survive.

Gottschalk's was forced out of its Danville Blackhawk Plaza location in 2006, which was its deepest penetration into the highly competitive Bay Area market.

Time will tell what Gottschalk's next move will be. Stay tuned for the latest


Sunday, January 04, 2009

Walnut Creek Residents: Biting The Hand That Feeds Them

The Neiman Marcus project in Walnut Creek's tony Broadway Plaza has been repealed by the city council.

The move came in response from Macerich, the plaza's owners, which came in response to 5,000 residents signing a petition to put a referendum on the ballot to cancel the project (Nardi, 2008, ¶ 3). Has Walnut Creek effectively jeopardized a potential tax bonanza and a dashed the hopes of local residents for a uber upscale department store that side of the bay?

But who is behind this move? No one seems to know and downtown merchants don't even care (Nardi, 2008, ¶ 6). But shouldn't we be concerned when no one takes responsibility for paying signature gatherers to rally voters?

The reasoning for the petition came under the guise of parking issues. But the parking situation only worsened when everyone else moved in after years of downtown redevelopment. Simply put, if Macerich expanded the mall and no one could get there, they'd be pretty motivated to remedy the problem on their own. Besides, how much traffic can Neiman Marcus create? With retailers begging for traffic, I'd figure the downtown merchants association would welcome deep-pocketed shoppers with open arms.

Macerich is expected to resubmit a new plan for the Neiman Marcus project. However, until that happens and with the current economic conditions, it just may not occur.


Nardi, E. (2008). Neiman Marcus project repealed. Oakland Tribune. Retrieved from;col1

Malls Have Gone Boring?

In one of those studies that begs the question, "who pays for these things?" the Wharton School of Business has found that malls are boring to shoppers.

Director of the study, Stephen Hoch, has determined that malls suffer from a "lack of discovery" (Philadelphia Business Journal, 2008, ¶ 4). Apparently, 35% of mall shoppers say "there was nothing new or unique in the mall" (Philadelphia Business Journal, 2008, ¶ 6).

I'm Not an Expert, But I Play One Online...

I love studies that confirm the seemingly obvious. How many malls have you been to that are exactly like the others? In my rating system for my BIGMallrat Malls of Northern California Web site, we have a rating scheme that considers uniqueness. It's simple. If every mall has The Gap, then it's not unique. If one mall has a Abercrombie & Fitch, but another does not, then that mall becomes unique. It's a stretch, but it works.

It's Not That Simple...

The situation may be more complex. Mall marketing managers have to determine a mall's differentiation and positioning. What the Wharton study has done is effectively determined that malls are not positioning themselves correctly. In fact, they have no differentiation whatsoever. The key for marketing managers is finding that differentiation, especially with the fierce competition of a down retail market. Mall anchors are few and far between, with mostly Macy's, JC Penney, and Sears being primary mall anchors. Dillard's is holding on, but not expanding. You probably can forget about Gottschalk's (regrettably). Kohl's doesn't prefer mall locations, either.

What us, as consumers, will inevitably find out is what mall marketing managers will do. Westfield seems to be the market leader, with the others either languishing or simply following the leader.

I'm hoping for the best.


Philadelphia Business Journal (2008). Here’s what’s the matter with malls today: They’ve become mundane. Retrieved January 4, 2009, from^1746434&ana=e_vert

Mervyn's - Gone But Not Forgotten

Mervyn's is gone... December 27th marked the day as Mervyn's last, closing all remaining stores that didn't close a month earlier from a previous round of store closings.

The final sales event was markedly mixed. Consumers reported that some prices were raised in order to present a 25% of markdown, in turn selling items higher than what Mervyn's originally had charged. Of course, the last 10 minutes of store closings was marked with 10 items for a dollar.

Not all hope is lost...

The San Francisco Business Times (December 12, 2008) reported that Kohl's and Forever 21 have acquired 12 former Mervyn's locations to expand their businesses. For local malls affected, Kohl's will replace Mervyn's at The Mall at Northgate in San Rafael, Southland Mall in Hayward, and Capitola Mall in Capitola (San Francisco Business Times). Forever 21 will be opening a super-sized store concept at the former Mervyn's at Northridge Mall in Salinas (San Francisco Business Times). That just leaves vacant anchor stores at Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo, Westfield Solano Mall in Fairfield, NewPark Mall in Newark, Somersville Towne Center in Antioch, and Princeton Plaza Mall in San Jose. Late in 2008, Mervyn's departed Alameda Towne Centre in Alameda, also to be replaced by Kohl's.

NewPark Mall expressed interest in replacing Mervyn's with a movie theatre and entertainment complex, but those plans have stalled with owner General Growth Properties verging on bankruptcy.

Malls with empty anchors often struggle. A recent visit to NewPark Mall showed the former Mervyn's end of the mall dying out. Westfield Solano Mall and Somersville Towne Center may also show struggles. Princeton Plaza Mall may have serious consequences since that was the tiny mall's only large anchor. Hillsdale Mall has other strong anchors and may not show much of a decline. The question remains, what can and will eventually replace these empty spaces? Not to mention, a glut of available retail with the departure of many Circuit City stores, all Linen's N Things, Kay Bee Toys, Crescent Jewellers, Whitehall Jewellers, and others, and we are looking at a bad mall year. However, these things are cyclical. What goes down, must eventually go up.


San Francisco Business Times (December 12, 2008). Kohl’s, Forever 21 acquire Mervyns locations, including Hayward store. Retrieved January 4, 2009, from