Store to close at Upper Valley Mall, reopen on Bechtle in Springfield

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The Springfield News-Sun has provided award-winning coverage of changes at the Upper Valley Mall and challenges to the retail industry nationwide, including a change in ownership at the mall and attempts to attract new tenants.

Bechtle Avenue remains the hub of retail in Clark County after a new sporting goods store recently opened and a national fashion chain said it will close a location at the Upper Valley Mall to relocate to Bechtle.

Rue 21 will open a new store at 1660 N. Bechtle Ave. in November, according to information from the company. The chain’s current location at the Upper Valley Mall is slated to close in mid-November. Dick’s Sporting Goods also recently opened a new store on Bechtle Avenue.

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Rue 21 is the latest of several national chains that have left the mall in recent years. It has been located at the mall since November 2008. Employees are expected to remain with the business during the relocation process. Officials at the mall declined to provide additional comment.

“The decision to relocate was to be able to make expansions to improve the overall store,” a company statement said.

Last year the mall was hit with two major setbacks as anchors J.C. Penney and Macy’s both shuttered their stores there. The mall suffered another major blow when the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, which drew thousands of visitors annually, closed its location there, citing declining foot traffic.

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Kay Jewelers also closed its store at the Upper Valley Mall to move to a new location inside the Bechtle Crossing Shopping Center at 1654 N. Bechtle Ave. The new Rue 21 store will be located in the same shopping center. Cardboard Heroes, American Eagle Outfitters, LensCrafters, Charley’s Grilled Subs and Lady Elizabeth Bridal and Tux also closed at the mall this year.

Some new tenants have opened at the Upper Valley Mall, including Treasure Trove Collectibles in September and Pixel Playground, slated to open this fall.

Susie Nickels, of Springfield, shopped at the mall Friday afternoon. She said she often travels outside Clark County for trips to chains like Macy’s now.

“Now it’s forcing us to travel Columbus or travel to Dayton,” Nickels said. “The stores that are left, it’s very limited.”

Rue 21’s new retail location will allow the chain to feature a new line of plus-sized clothing, a category the company now carries in 242 stores nationally. The chain expects to offer the clothing line in more locations next year, according to information from the company. Its headquarters are located north of Pittsburgh, and the chain operates more than 1,100 stores in 48 states.

>>DETAILS: Upper Valley Mall faces uphill battle to attract tenants

Some business owners said the Upper Valley Mall remains a good place to do business despite several national chains vacating the property. Rachel Redmon opened the New 2 U thrift store there earlier this year and recently moved into a location formerly occupied by American Eagle.

Redmon pointed out several national chains like Victoria’s Secret and Footlocker continue to operate at the mall. And she said her business has fared well.

Meanwhile Bechtle Avenue continues to draw retailers like Dick’s Sporting Goods, which recently celebrated a grand opening event. Ohio State legend and two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin was slated to visit the new store Sunday.

Nickels said malls across the nation appear to be struggling as more shopping takes place online.

Information from the National Retail Federation shows consumers will split their shopping time relatively evenly between department stores, online and at discount retail stores over the upcoming holiday shopping season.

“I don’t know with all the online shopping and Amazon that there’s anything they can do,” Nickels said. “I see malls dying everywhere all over the country. That’s what we hear from friends all over the United States. I think the whole shopping trend is changing.”

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