Shoppers, get ready for a wave of change at Coastal Grand mall, including the addition of major retailer H+M in 2015, the shifting of several store locations and renovations at many of the mall’s other retailers.
The changes come as the mall marks its 10th year in business in Myrtle Beach, a milestone that means many tenants’ leases are up. That’s given mall management the flexibility to move nearly a half dozen stores to make room for highly sought-after clothing chain H+M – which wanted a prime center court spot, said Steve McGhee, the mall’s general manager who has been talking with H+M about moving in for five years.
The end of the 10-year lease period also means a handful of tenants won’t be back, and those who do stay will be freshening up their stores with renovations, as required in the leases to keep the mall looking new.
They are the most significant changes to the 1.3-million-square-foot mall since it opened in March 2004 and brought new retailers to the market including Bed, Bath and Beyond, Dillard’s and Abercrombie & Fitch, among others.
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Finally landing H+M – which would be its first location along the Grand Strand – couldn’t be a better birthday present, McGhee said.
“We seized the opportunity to bring somebody new into the market that will be a very popular tenant,” he said. “You always want to keep it exciting and new. You want to add something that brings maybe a new customer to your center. I can’t think of anybody that would do that better than H+M.”
H+M – with a business model of selling quality fashion and accessories for women, men, teenagers and children at the best price – plans to open its 20,000-square-foot store near the food court in October 2015. Several stores will have to move within the mall to make room, and mall management is still negotiating with them and shifting other stores to make it work.
H+M – which has two stores in South Carolina, one on King Street in Charleston and another in Tanger Outlets in Charleston –has the popularity to lure new shoppers to Coastal Grand, as well as retailers who want to open near the chain, McGhee said.
“It’s a draw. They have a huge following,” McGhee said. “It’s one of the biggest names you can get in our industry. They are growing by leaps and bounds.”
H+M, which has about 3,300 stores in 55 countries, is in a growth mode with a goal of increasing its number of stores by 10 to 15 percent a year, according to its website. In 2014, it planned to open about 375 new stores. H+M representatives couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.
“That is certainly a retailer that is hot right now,” said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Other new year-round tenants have opened at Coastal Grand, and more are on the way. Cinnabon plans to open in mid-November near the Dillard’s end of the mall, and skateboarding-surfing clothing shop Zumiez opened last week.
Other stores that already had a presence in the mall have moved into larger spaces, including Palmetto Moon and Sleep Number.
“We had a lot of 10-year renewals coming up, so it gave us the flexibility to renew or not to renew, or relocate or not to relocate,” McGhee said. “We thought it was important to bring something new to the center.”
But with leases up for renewal, it also means some won’t be back. Lane Bryant already has closed, with that space replaced by accessory store Bijuju Accessory Boutique. Chef Smitty’s, a staple in the food court since the mall opened, will close at the end of the year.
“There’s only a handful – a few by our choice and a few by the tenants’ choice,” McGhee said.
Chef Smitty’s opted not to renew its lease because the eatery wasn’t getting the traffic it wanted in the last five years, owner Gregg Smith said. The restaurant didn’t have the name recognition of the other usual mall food court regulars such as Chick-fil-A, especially among tourists, he said.
“Unfortunately it’s the independent guy who gets pushed out,” Smith said.
It’s common to see malls freshen up every decade to stay relevant with the times, often installing new carpets, lighting or landscaping, Tron said.
“Trends tend to change around that decade mark,” he said. “Once every 10 years malls tend to do some type of renovation.”
Coastal Grand shoppers might have already noticed some of the store renovations, and more construction work is on the way.
Come January, after the busy holiday shopping season wraps up, more retailers will be doing their required renovations, and more stores will start moving to make way for H+M. The mall will do work on the H+M space starting in April, then H+M will do its construction starting in the summer, McGhee said.
“The changes are phenomenal,” said Rob Safa, co-owner of Bijuju Accessory Boutique, which opened a store in the mall a few months ago. “I’m looking forward to the new stores coming in.”
Palmetto Moon, which has had a store in the mall for about five years, moved into a larger spot at the end of August, which allowed the store to double its space, double its staff and add more merchandise, manager Gabby Mitchell said. This has been one of the store’s best years since opening in the mall, she said.
“Moving over here made it even better,” Mitchell said, standing in the larger store.
The mall has been nearly fully leased the past few years, hovering at 98 percent, McGhee said. The industry average is about 93 percent, Tron said.
McGhee said he hopes the changes will lead to a full line-up of stores by the end of 2015.
Then what do you do?
Coastal Grand has room to expand, though a physical expansion isn’t in the works right now. There’s room for a couple more anchor spots to be added, as well as plenty of outparcels.
“There’s nothing in the plans right now but it could be a possibility,” McGhee said.
Commercial development has rebounded in the past 18 months, with several new shopping hubs built or in the works along the Grand Strand, including Coastal North Town Center in North Myrtle Beach that boasts the area’s first Publix grocery store and Hobby Lobby. New retailers and restaurants also are popping up on the south end including at the new SayeBrook Town Center.
McGhee isn’t worried about the additional retail offerings, saying Coastal Grand’s central location and mix of tenants – including some that are only found there along the Grand Strand – will keep the mall competitive for its next 10 years and beyond.
“Competition makes you stronger,” McGhee said. “We want a flavor of not only national tenants, but of local tenants and regional tenants. We don’t want to be a cookie-cutter mall.”