O.V. Mall Changing, But It’s Here to Stay

By ROBERT A. DEFRANK

Staff Writer

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Like many other retail sites nationwide, the Ohio Valley Mall experienced the loss of several stores along with an influx of new businesses during the past year, while some mainstay shops continue to serve a variety of customers.

Joe Bell, director of communications for the Cafaro Co., the mall’s parent company, said the mall and its merchants will continue to adapt to the changing retail landscape and the needs of the public.

“There’s been a lot of turning in the past couple years in the retail industry. It certainly has touched the Ohio Valley Mall. We saw the departure of Elder-Beerman, one of our older line department stores. These have not been great times for a lot of department stores nationwide,” Bell said. “Unfortunately it did have to leave the Ohio Valley Mall. We were fortunate to have two great new additions to fill that space. Marshall’s took one of the Elder Beerman spaces, and very soon we will see Tilt Studios operating in the other one.”

Bell added that Tilt is an entertainment center that appeals to a wide variety of customers, featuring many rides and games.

“It’s really an entertainment location where people can go, whether they’re kids or older people,” he said.

“Another good example of a departure that was based on what trends are in the nationwide economy is hhgregg. It did fall victim to a problem that is plaguing an awful lot of retailers over the past year or two — heavy debt load. They became over-leveraged and had to cut back their business. … It doesn’t have anything to do with the local economy, it’s just a function of how difficult it’s been for retailers who were either unable to adapt or had taken on too much debt.”

Bell added that Levin Furniture quickly filled the space vacated by hhgregg in the early fall.

Bell also pointed out the retailers on the mall perimeter that have continued to be successful.

“If there’s a common thread, I think it’s that they appeal specifically to the local consumers in the region. For instance, Rural King, on Thanksgiving night and into Black Friday, the place was packed, and that’s because it provides a lot of great value and a lot of great products that appeal to a lot of clientele in rural areas that surround the mall,” he said.

He also pointed to the arrival of Division 1 Donuts.

“It’s a niche market that appeals to those folks who enjoy that kind of sweet,” Bell said. “They do well because they satisfy a particular niche craving.

“The appearance of those stores and those particular merchants points to a very important fact about the changing face of shopping centers. They’re no longer places just to buy merchandise. They have become places for people to go and fill a lot of those everyday needs of their lives. They want to go there not just to purchase items, but to be entertained. They go to the movie theaters. … They want to find places to eat. … They want to find places they can relax and take care of professional services. I think we’re going to see more and more professional services coming into the mall, because people have the desire to take care of all those parts of their daily lives that way, and we’re responding by seeking out those particular businesses that fill all of those needs.

“They may need to purchase a pair of shoes, but they may also need to see a dentist or work out at a health club,” he continued. “Perhaps they want to take in a movie.”

In contrast, he added that stores such as Ollie’s and Gabe’s have prospered by offering a wide variety of items at affordable prices.

“They provide great value for consumers conscious of the dollars spent. They provide a lot of service, a lot of merchandise, for not a lot of money,” he said. “When consumers need great value, they will respond. That’s why retailers like Gabe’s do very well.”

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