Lambton Mall is facing uncertain times with two large tenants preparing to move out, but property manager Laura Beecroft says her leasing team is hard at work and anticipates more encouraging news in the New Year.
Sears, a two-storey anchor at the south end, will wrap up its liquidation sale on Jan. 21 and close. A few months later, Tepperman’s Furniture on the north side will move to a new London Road location when its lease expires April 30.
“We are in negotiations for both and will be finding solutions and new tenants for two of our larger spaces,” said Beecroft.
She knows rumours abound about replacements for Sears and Tepperman’s, but won’t name names until contracts are signed.
She did, however, put some rumours to rest.
“The retail landscape is changing so much and department stores aren’t necessarily what people want these days,” she said. “So there aren’t any department stores that would be coming to Sarnia.”
And the market is saturated with grocery stores, she said.
“I’ve seen grocery stores fail just across the street from here. It would have to be something quite unusual for a grocery store to go in.”
She also dismissed the idea of a Costco, saying Sarnia is too small.
“On the other hand, we’ve heard some great suggestions from the community, like new and different restaurants, Forever 21 (clothing and accessories), HomeSense and Old Navy (clothing).
“I think a HomeSense would do well in our market.”
The mall’s leasing team is trying to find a single tenant to fill the entire 31,000 square feet currently occupied by Tepperman’s. But Beecroft said several tenants are needed to occupy the 135,000-square-foot Sears space.
“We’re actively pursuing some exciting options and I’m confident we’ll be able to share something at some point next year,” she said.
She anticipates the upper floor to be filled with something like a call centre or office space.
The first floor will be divided into at least two larger spaces for “retail or entertainment options,” Beecroft said.
Meanwhile, the mall has demolished the shuttered movie theatre and former Norm’s restaurant to the east of Canadian Tire. It has no plans for that property, which is available for sale or lease, she said.
Although it’s losing two key anchors, Lambton Mall does have some good news. An 8,000-square-foot RBC bank is being built in the west parking lot, with occupancy expected in late March.
And two new ventures designed to make shopping more fun are proving wildly popular.
Shoppers have been surprised in recent weeks by large animal scooters zipping through the shopping centre, steered by children, teens and adults.
Local entrepreneurs Heba Hamed, Abdullah Zaro, Hussein Abushehada and Haya Abdulkarim launched Fun Rides with six battery-operated animals.
A new train is also running throughout the mall this month. It’s large enough to carry adults and was an instant hit with families, according to staff.
“Research is showing us that retail needs to offer a wow factor,” said Beecroft. “The way we interact with our customers has to change so that retail shopping offers something not found online.”
Now into Christmas season, Lambton Mall has 88 tenants and 99% occupancy.
“Volume sales are up,” said Beecroft. “That’s something you are not generally seeing in the retail industry.”