Sears

The Sears in Richland Mall has once again escaped a round of planned store closures by the national chain.

Drip, drip, drip.

The lifeblood of the iconic Sears department store chain continues to slip away. It announced it will close 142 more stores, including several in Texas, as it seeks to transform itself after a bankruptcy filing last month.

Once again, Waco’s Sears lives to sell another day, but one has to wonder if this is the last Black Friday for the Richland Mall anchor open since 1980. At 150,000 square feet spread over two levels, it is a monster. Who would move in there? Richland, one would think, has plenty to offer. It operates smack in the middle of the U.S. Highway 84 growth corridor.

The mall has faced challenges and the loss of tenants to Central Texas Marketplace including Old Navy, Lane Bryant, James Avery, Gap and Kirkland’s, among others.

But it continues to bounce back, with Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works taking more space, Dillard’s opening a second location in the mall, JC Penney adding Sephora, a cosmetics emporium, and the addition of Earthbound Trading Co., H&M and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

The occupancy rate remains well above 90 percent in a mall that underwent a $1 million-plus remodel a few years ago, courtesy of owner CBL Properties.

Tennessee-based CBL is taking nothing for granted. It has seen Sears fold in properties it owns elsewhere.

“We have been monitoring the situation with Sears very closely and are in the process of evaluating contingency plans for every property in our portfolio with a Sears location,” CBL spokeswoman Stacey Keating wrote in an email response to questions about Richland Mall.

She said the company knows of businesses that would be interested in moving in Sears’ space in Richland Mall if the store folds down the line.

Though Waco’s Sears has never appeared on a list of closings, the Chicago-based retailer, which also owns Kmart, has been slicing and dicing its holdings for years. The latest closings include stores in Frisco, Irving, Lubbock, Harlingen, and two in Austin.

David Simmonds, founder and president of Austin-based Retail Solutions, a real estate brokerage firm with seven locations around the state and clients in the U.S., Mexico and Canada, said Sears vacancies represent an opportunity to repurpose prime retail space.

The Austin American-Statesman reported the locations closing in Austin are likely to be in high demand and that Sears has hired Seritage Growth Properties to help it get the most for its real estate.

“In other cities, Seritage has backfilled Sears stores with a variety of tenants, including Whole Foods Market, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Nordstrom Rack, REI, Dave & Buster’s, At Home and 24 Hour Fitness,” the Statesman reported.

CBL Properties’ quarterly earnings report states there will be 21 Sears stores in CBL malls at the start of next year, down from 53 in 2015.

Among its repurposing success stories is a conversion of a former Sears space at Brookfield Square in Brookfield, Wisconsin, into an entertainment and dining space that includes a movie theater and Whirlyball fun center, according to the report.

Richland Mall manager

Just in time for holiday shopping, Rosie Bean has started as Richland Mall’s new general manager, succeeding longtime manager Kandace Menning.

Stacey Keating, spokeswoman for mall owner CBL Properties, declined to address Menning’s departure.

“We wish her the best in her future endeavors,” Keating wrote in an email response to questions.

Bean referred all questions to Keating.

“Rosie began her career at Richland Mall in 1997,” Keating wrote. “Prior to relocating to Waco, she served as director, operations services at CBL’s headquarters in Chattanooga. Rosie is thrilled to return ‘home,’ and her intimate knowledge of the mall and the market, coupled with her leadership skills and financial background, make her a strong GM to lead Richland Mall into the future.”

Small Business Saturday

Eight in 10 Texans plan to shop at a small independently owned retailer or eat at a small independently owned restaurant on Nov. 24, which is Small Business Saturday, according to the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey prepared by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and American Express, which launched Small Business Saturday in 2010.

The survey also found nine in 10 Texans believe Small Business Saturday has had a positive impact on their community. According to an American Express economic impact survey, 67 cents of every dollar spent at a small business stays in the local community.

Hydro-Con

Hydro-Con LLC in Lorena has ranked No. 4 on the Texas A&M University Mays Business School’s Aggie 100 list of the fastest growing Aggie-owned businesses.

Hydro-Con is involved in excavation and concrete services and is growing at a 113 percent clip, according to the Aggie 100 website. Houston-based LJA Infrastructure as the top dog, with a 188 percent growth rate.

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