Malls, retailers in Cy-Fair adapt to changing retail landscape

The first half of 2017 was marked by announcements from a handful of retailers that they would be significantly downsizing the number of bricks-and-mortar storefronts nationwide.


The biggest names to have announced closures include Macy’s Inc., J.C. Penney Co. and Sears Holding Corp., which  will be closing 68, 138 and 308 stores, respectively. Other retailers—including Bebe Stores Inc., The Limited and Wet Seal—announced plans to close all stores nationwide.


Cy-Fair has not been immune to the closures. Sears locations on Jones Road and in Copperfield have already been shuttered. Sports Authority closed on FM 1960 after the company filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2016, and Gander Mountain closed its Cy-Fair location in May.


A big factor in why sales at many bricks-and-mortar retail outlets are falling is more people are shopping online, said Daniel Levine, director of the Avant-Guide Institute, a consultancy firm that studies consumer trends, including trends in the Houston area.


“If a product can be found easier and cheaper on the internet, that’s what will drive consumers,” he said.


However, overall retail growth in the Cy-Fair area has been steady through the first half of 2017. A report from the commercial real estate firm CBRE found Houston has largely been insulated from the effects of national closures.


Retail occupancy rates in Cy-Fair hovered around 95 percent, the report found. While some stores closed this year, many more opened, including a Dressbarn in Fairfield, multiple locations of Pet Supermarket and a Total Wine and More in Copperfield.


Fairfield Town Center, a new retail development off Hwy. 290 in Cypress, has brought on several large retail tenants over the past year, including Old Navy, Party City and Marshalls.


“Our retailers in general are all happy with the business they are getting,” said Carl Esser, general manager of the Fairfield Town Center. “We only have three spaces left to lease and we have interested parties in all of those.”


Even as retailers downsize their number of storefronts, occupancy rates at Cy-Fair area malls remain high as well.


After stores have closed Willowbrook Mall locations, it has not taken long for new tenants to take their places, Mall Manager Sandy LaClave said. Last November, officials had to renovate the mall to create an anchor space for Dick’s Sporting Goods because all the existing anchor spaces were occupied.


“Willowbrook is almost fully leased,” LaClave said. “Stores are always coming and going; this is not necessarily unusual. Stores that are succeeding are doing really well.”


Aside from Dick’s, which opened in October, Willowbrook has brought in major tenants, such as Zara, Lush and Nordstrom Rack, over the past three years. Clothing store Charlotte Russe opened this summer, and ThinkGeek is set to open this fall, LaClave said.


However, not all Greater Houston area malls have found their footing. Northwest Mall, which was located at the corner of Hwy. 290 and Loop 610, closed March 31.


“We’re not looking at a wholesale collapse,” Levine said. “We’re looking at a slow bleed with the weakest [malls] falling off first.”



Survive and adapt


Although retail has proven resilient in Houston, Levine said he believes the market will soon take a hit. Survival for retailers depends on their ability to adapt, he said.


Both Willowbrook Mall and Houston Premium Outlets are implementing strategies to keep shoppers coming back. Strategies focus on experiential shopping—giving shoppers a reason to come out aside from the stores.


On Aug. 19 and 20, Willowbrook hosted its first-ever Market Day, bringing local vendors and artisans into the mall to set up shop.


“It offers shoppers a local flavor, something you don’t normally see at a mall,” LaClave said.


Levine said it is hard to predict the future of retail in Houston, but added the trend is likely to get more intense.


“Once [trends] get going, they have a lot of inertia,” he said. “Trends are hard to beat, and the trend is people buying online.”

By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


MOST RECENT

New COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths all rose in Harris County from July 3-5.
Harris County coronavirus count: 2,489 new cases, 13 deaths confirmed over holiday weekend July 3-5

Active COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations hit all-time highs in Harris County on July 5.

Zeneakia Ilo opened House of Zen Med Spa June 17 at 25282 Hwy. 290, Ste. 160, Cypress. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
House of Zen Med Spa now open at Hwy. 290 and Skinner Road in Cypress

The spa offers a variety of treatments as well as an oxygen bar.

The outdoor pavilion at the Langham Creek Family YMCA has been converted into an open-air studio for group exercise classes, featuring 8,000 square feet of covered turf space outfitted with fitness equipment. (Courtesy YMCA of Greater Houston)
Langham Creek YMCA completes renovation of outdoor pavilion, gym, child watch area

Renovations to the indoor and outdoor fitness areas were made with social distancing in mind.

The First Street Foundation's dataset includes a forecast models that anticipate the effects of climate change and sea level rise. (Screenshot via First Street Foundation)
Analysis: FEMA may be undercounting national total flood risk by as much as 70%

The new dataset includes an interactive Flood Factor dashboard that anyone can use to assess the risk of flooding over a 30-year period for any address.

The city of Houston reported the 14-day moving average for testing positivity was at 24.8% as of June 28, up from 15.4% on June 1. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 1,249 cases, three deaths confirmed July 2

The city of Houston reported the 14-day moving average for testing positivity was at 24.8% as of June 28, up from 15.4% on June 1.

Houston fireworks display
Here’s how to celebrate Fourth of July across the Greater Houston area

Several Houston-area cities are still planning fireworks shows with drive-in or virtual components this Fourth of July.

Gov. Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott: Texans must wear masks in public starting July 3

"COVID-19 is not going away," Gov. Abbott said. "In fact, it is getting worse."

The Kemah Boardwalk will be open Fourth of July weekend. (Courtesy Kemah Boardwalk)
3 Houston-area amusement properties will be open Fourth of July weekend

The Kemah Boardwalk, Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier and Downtown Aquarium Houston are offering a joint weekend adventure pass for $29.99.

When interest rates are low, homeowners may look to save money by refinancing, which means getting a new mortgage with a better term or interest rate to lower payments. (Source: Matt Frankel/Community Impact Newspaper)
'Refinancing isn't free:' How to navigate refinancing a mortgage

When interest rates are low, homeowners may look to save money by refinancing, which means getting a new mortgage with a better term or interest rate to lower payments.

Episcopal Health Foundation
Survey: Texans support emphasis on improving economy, safety, pollution to address overall health

“COVID-19 is clearly showing what Texans already know: the state needs to address underlying, non-medical conditions that have a dramatic impact on their health,” Episcopal Health Foundation President and CEO Elena Marks said.

Houston-based Christian Brothers Automotive operates more than 200 locations across the United States. (Courtesy Christian Brothers Automotive)
Q&A: Christian Brothers Automotive CEO talks commercial real estate, essential business operations amid pandemic

The Houston-based automotive company has franchise locations throughout Texas, Georgia, Tennessee and Arizona.

Services offered at the facility include 3D mammography, screening mammograms and bone densitometry. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Solis Mammography opens new location on Fry Road in Cypress

The center opened June 29, and it provides mammograms and other services.