2 more stores set to close at Westmoreland Mall | TribLIVE.com

2 more stores set to close at Westmoreland Mall

Megan Tomasic
Megan Tomasic | Tribune-Review
Gymboree is one of two stores closing at Westmoreland Mall.

Two more stores are slated to close at Westmoreland Mall. The pending loss of Helzberg Diamonds and Gymboree highlight a troubling trend, in which vacancy rates at malls nationwide continue to rise and are at or near the highest level in years.

Helzberg Diamonds, a jewelry store headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., will close its Hempfield location March 24, according to Marti Greathouse, director of corporate communications and social media.

“The decision to close one of our stores, while never easy, is based on a variety of factors,” Greathouse said. “With over 100 years in business, Helzberg Diamonds is committed to serving our customers and helping them celebrate life’s special moments.”

The store is on the upper level of Westmoreland Mall, across from Zales Jewelers. Customers are encouraged to use the South Hills Village location at 301 South Hills Village or to shop Helzberg Diamonds online.

San Francisco-based Gymboree, a children’s clothing retailer founded in 1976, filed for bankruptcy in January. The company announced that it would close more than 600 stores, including 380 Gymboree locations in the United States and Canada as well as 265 Crazy 8 locations.

Gap announced last week that it reached a deal to pay $35 million for Gymboree’s Janie and Jack high-end kids apparel chain, which includes more than 100 stores and an e-commerce site.

At Westmoreland Mall, clothes at Gymboree are between 60 percent and 70 percent off. According to the Gymboree website, this is the final week customers can shop online. A closing date for the Westmoreland Mall location has not yet been announced.

Other stores at Westmoreland Mall — including anchor tenant Sears along with Payless Shoe Source and Charlotte Russe — are already holding going-out-of-business sales. Sears is slated to close Sunday.

Bon-Ton, another anchor store, closed in August. A mini-casino could take its place.

The vacancy rate at regional malls was about 9 percent at the end of 2018, according to the latest figures from real estate research firm Reis. Rates have climbed steadily since 2016, when vacancies were less than 8 percent. The last two quarters of 2018 saw the highest vacancy rates by malls since 2011, when the rate reached 9.4 percent.

Westmoreland Mall had a vacancy rate of 8 percent at the end of 2017, according to Stacey Keating, a spokeswoman for CBL Properties of Chattanooga, Tenn., which owns the mall. More recent figures are not available, she said.

The Tribune-Review this week found more than 10 percent of the nearly 100 retail spaces at the mall are vacant, including the former Bon-Ton location. That figure does not include the pending closures.

Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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