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Analysis: Boise’s mall area a significant local economic engine, tied to big national retailers

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A month ago Friday, Boise Towne Square locked the doors. All of the 100-plus stores remain dark. No cash registers ringing. No pretzels baking. No dressing rooms occupied.

The US Dept. of Commerce put out a look at the retail sector for March – showing nationally that retail and food dropped 8.7%. Data for April, will likely fall even further. Maybe much further.

The New York Times looks at some of the big national department stores and measures they are taking to stay afloat. Boise Towne Square counts Macy’s, JCPenney, Kohls and Dillards as department store anchors, along with the Apple Store, H&M and Forever 21 as secondary anchors.

We told you in Feburary – another era – about the overall health of Boise Towne Square. The mall, owned by Brookfield Properties, snared an A- rating from Green Street Advisors. That firm rates most malls across the country on a traditional letter grade system.

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Green Street told the NY Times that it expected half of all department stores to close in the next five years — a forecast they made before the pandemic. Two department stores with Boise stores brought in banks and consultants to look at restructuring and refinancing options: Macy’s and JCPenney. Penney’s skipped an interest payment, which could lead to bankruptcy, according to analysts at SeekingAlpha. But Penneys’ historic cash flow could mean a reorganization is on deck, rather than a liquidation.

The mall continues to operate without the former Sears space filled. A separate group, Seritage, has that property listed for lease.

Economic engine

Boise Towne Square anchors a significant piece of the SW Idaho economy. In addition to the stores inside the mall itself, hundreds of other businesses in the area depend on the foot traffic generated by the center. Those businesses support thousands of local jobs, as well as significant sales tax revenues for the city and state. The loss of a few significant tenants at the mall could put a dent in the overall local economy.

Along with other areas like Downtown Boise, Village at Meridian and the Karcher area of Nampa, retail remains a significant piece of the Boise valley economy. How it adapts and changes in the months and years ahead will be a big ingredient of the broader local economy.

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