The Mall of America will undergo a major big transformation this year when Bloomingdale's, an anchor tenant since the mall opened in 1992, will close its store.
Several new tenants have been lined up that will increase traffic and sales, say Mall of America officials.
The store will close by mid-March as part of what Macy's, the parent company of Bloomingdale's, calls regular "selective pruning." The Mall of America store is one of four Bloomingdales locations that'll close nationwide.
"The stores were not performing to the company's expectations, and that required us to make the difficult decision to close stores that no longer meet our performance requirement," said Marissa Vitagliano, Bloomingdale's spokeswoman.
The Bloomington store closing will affect about 125 employees. Some will be offered jobs at other stores. Employees who are laid off will get severance benefits, the company said.
Some industry observers say the Mall of America and Bloomingdale's were never a good fit.
The Midwestern mall couldn't deliver the steady stream of repeat--affluent customers a Bloomingdale's store needs to succeed, said Howard Davidowitz, retail consultant.
"(Mall of America) is an experience kind of place," Davidowitz said. "It's an extravaganza. How on earth does a traditional, upscale fashion store exactly fit with that? I don't think so."
But Davidowitz suspects a highly-favorable leasing deal enticed Bloomingdale's to open a store at the mall and stay there.
Other retail watchers agree that Bloomingdale's was not a good cultural or fashion fit for the Mall and its Midwestern visitors.
"It's an east coast company and they tend to be more fashion-forward," said Dave Brennan, co-director of the Institute for Retailing Excellence at the University of St. Thomas. "And I think Minnesotans, generally speaking, don't go as much upscale."
Mall officials have lined up several tenants to fill the nearly quarter-million square feet of retail space that Bloomingdale's will vacate.
Those new tenants include four "fashion forward" retailers, Mall officials won't name them, but say three are new to the Twin Cities market. The mall also plans to locate what it calls "destination, value-priced" retail on the third floor of the Bloomingdale's store.
But that value-priced retailer won't be Target, which plans to open only one store in the Twin Cities in 2012. That store will be in Inver Grove Heights.
Brennan has an idea about one possible replacement tenant.
"The most likely one I can see is a Von Maur," he said.
That Iowa-based upscale retailer has a store in Eden Prairie. Brennan also sees Herberger's as possible tenant at the Mall of America.
Breaking up the Bloomingdale's floorplan into smaller stores should make it easier to attract new tenants.
"They will be able to find someone to fill the space, I'm certain,'' said Jim McComb, a Twin Cities retail and real estate consultant. He expects the mall to be unfazed by Bloomgdale's departure.
"I don't see it as a significant hit to traffic at the mall," he said.
Mall of America officials suggest the unnamed replacements will be an upgrade.
"Bringing in some new brands to this area -- that's going to drive additional traffic, not only to Mall of America but to this specific area of the Mall of America," said Dan Jasper, a mall spokesman. "Foot traffic will increase. Sales will increase.
"Those same shoppers are going to explore the entire mall."
Last year, the mall's sales rose about 10 percent and foot traffic was also up, despite an underperforming anchor store -- the soon-to-depart Bloomingdale's.