A wave of closures hit the Victoria Mall in January, beginning with the shuttering of Sears. Then came Gordon’s Jewelers, Crazy 8, Charlotte Russe and the mall’s first tenant, Things Remembered.

Dorothy Garcia, who’s worked at the Hallmark Gold Crown in the Victoria Mall for several years, said she has seen the most closures this year since she started working at the mall.

“All of us were like, ‘What’s gonna happen?’” Garcia said. “During the week, it’s like a ghost town.”

According to Cheryl H. Bridges, a marketing professor at Texas A&M University, malls are experiencing vacancies across the U.S.

The outcome could be grim. According to a 2017 Credit Suisse report, 20% to 25% of U.S. malls could close by 2022.

However, since those Victoria Mall store closures, several businesses have come in to refill the empty storefronts. Daniel’s Jewelers, a national jewelry store, opened a location in the mall earlier this summer. This winter, La Terraza, a Mexican food restaurant with locations in Seadrift and Yoakum, will open its third storefront where Scoreboard Sports Bar used to be.

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Officials at Hull Property Group, the company that owns the mall, were not available to comment.

As far as malls are concerned, the Victoria Mall does relatively well, said Aaron Farmer, senior vice president of The Retail Coach, a consulting firm that works with the city of Victoria to attract retailers.

The recent closures in the Victoria Mall, Farmer said, reflect a broader pattern.

“You’re seeing a national trend where retailers move out of malls and into strip centers,” Farmer said.

In fact, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the most profitable shopping malls across the country – or about 20% – generate the lion’s share of total mall sales nationwide – 72%.

Abraham Cabrera, co-owner of La Terraza, said he’s excited for the mall location because it’s central to many Victorians, many of whom currently drive 40 minutes to Seadrift to eat at the restaurant there.

However, Julian Juarez, who manages the Daniel’s Jewelers in Victoria Mall, said the location of the store didn’t matter so much.

The store is one of about half a dozen jewelry stores in the mall. Juarez said the company chose Victoria because of its position between major markets and for the fact it’s able to compete with its mall neighbors because customers can negotiate prices.

Garcia said the mall’s multiple jewelry stores exemplify its lack of retail diversity, which doesn’t help drive consumer traffic.

Like Bridges, Garcia believes mall owners need to invest in giving consumers experiences, not just products, to attract traffic to their shopping centers.

“The mall needs more activities,” Garcia said.

According to the Victoria Mall’s website, annual events include a coloring contest, an Easter bunny photo op, two reading recognition nights, a holiday season kickoff and a Santa Claus visit.

But now that the school year has begun, Darlene Schriner, who also works at the Hallmark store, said the mall is most popular during the weekdays with a group of about 20 senior walkers who use the mall for their morning and evening workout routines.

“They’ll occasionally stop in to buy a thing or two,” Schriner said.

To drive day-to-day sales, Garcia said, the mall needs activities to attract kids.

“You can only go to the movies so many times,” Garcia said. “If they’re not going to invite kids in, we won’t get a lot of foot traffic until the holidays.”

Morgan is the business reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at (361) 580-6328, mohanlon@vicad.com or @mcohanlon.

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