Pablo's Commentary:

Posted March 29, 2006 (user submitted)

The Shops at Willow Bend opened shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, just in time for the economy to gown downhill. It was a very expensive project of the Taubman Co, and was touted as an ultra-upscale shopper's paradise, which fits with the surrounding affulent community. They even offered to buyout the 2 year old Home Depot across the street and knock it down, because it didn't fit their idea for this "upscale" area. Home Depot declined and still operates a thriving store there next to a successful Costco.

It was targeted to be an upscale "fashion oriented" mall. They were very selective about who they would have as tennants. No Sears, Mervyn's, Kohl's, Beall's or movie theatres for example.

At the grand opening, it was less than 70% leased. Many of the original stores were the "first and only" location in the state of Texas. A few years later, most of those stores were gone.

The "deluxe" food court lost several tenants, including two full service fancy restaurants, which are still vacant today.

Foot traffic is always weak, even on Friday and Saturday nights when most other local malls are packed. Many small shops have gone under, although management is quick to cover up those shops with wallboard so it looks as if there was never anything there to begin with. I suppose that gives a better impression than seeing a bunch of vacant storefronts.

I would point to these primary factors for the lack of success of Willow Bend:

  1. Opening right after 9-11
  2. Having no entertainment venues.
  3. Having only "expensive" stores, no moderate priced stores.
  4. Having nothing for men. Okay, there is a Sharper Image and a Brookstone, but that's it fellas. There is absloutely no reason for a man to go to this mall. Everything is geared towards women. While most malls target females, they do have stuff for guys, such as RadioShack, Sears (tools, electronics, applicances), arcades, sporting goods stores, electronics stores, etc. Willow Bend has none of these.
If you're going for a fun day of shopping with your wife/girlfriend, do you think most men will want to go here or to the other malls where they can "run off" and do man stuff, and meet up with their honey later?

Saks Fifth Avenue was to open in 2004, but was delayed for more than a year for "unknown reasons." It is open today.

Of the 5 anchor stores, Lord & Taylor now sits vacant, victim of The May Company's decision to close several stores, even before the Federeated merger. Rumor has it Sears is interested in that space, but management doesn't want "that kind of store." Penney's is also too "low brow" for them, but I don't think Penney's is even interested.

There aren't any other major department stores in Dallas, so I guess they'll just let it sit vacant until they change their minds about Sears or Penney's.

In the past year, management has been more liberal about who they let in, including more "non-traditional" tenants such as doctor's offices, military recruiters (under discussion) and a sales office for a nearby luxury car dealership.

This isn't exactly a dead mall, at least not yet. I know from firsthand information that the Neiman-Marcus and Dillard's are profitable. I assume Foley's must be making money as this store is not slated for closure due to the merger; it will soon become a Macy's.

Bottom Line: Willow Bend could go either way. If new management were brought in, along with new thinking and more variety, I'm sure this could be a success story. As far as the whole mall closing, I find it unlikely simply because it really is a great location, and too many people (including the government) have too much at stake.

Sidenote: The first ever "upscale" Wal-Mart Supercenter just opened diagonally across the freeway. Fake wood floors, wider aisles, huge wine selection, no guns, no big automotive section and no fabric department.

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