Lord & Taylor to Leave Troubled Mall

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lord & Taylor, a brand that analysts say has lost its cachet in the current retail slump, yesterday said it is closing its store at the troubled Landmark Mall in Alexandria.

Company officials, who said the store would close July 12, did not disclose why they were shutting it, saying only that their customers would be "better served" at their Tysons Corner and Chevy Chase locations. A spokesman said Lord & Taylor has 47 stores across the country, eight of those in the Washington area.

Analysts said they were not surprised by Lord & Taylor's decision. Landmark Mall is owned by General Growth Properties, which last month filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Landmark, a 44-year-old mall that was renovated in 1990, was among the company's individual properties that filed for bankruptcy protection on its own.

Gregory H. Leisch, chief executive of Delta Associates, a real estate and research firm in Alexandria, said the mall has a growing vacancy rate and is no longer a good fit for the store.

"The demographics of the trade area have changed. . . . It is no longer upscale," Leisch said. "The mall has deteriorated terribly going back before General Growth owned it."

General Growth spokesman Jim Graham declined to say why Lord & Taylor opted to depart. In a statement, he said General Growth will "continue to evaluate our options for the future of Landmark Mall" and will work with the city to determine its direction.

Lord & Taylor has had a series of owners in recent years. Its previous owner, May Department Stores, closed 40 percent of its locations in a cost-cutting move. The company was sold to Federated Department Stores in 2005, and the following year was acquired by NRDC Equity Partners.

"They've been struggling in the luxury retail market since the stock market decline," said C. Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of America's Research Group.

The store, he said, has an identity problem -- it's neither a strong luxury brand like Bloomingdale's or Saks nor a discounter like Wal-Mart.

"When you're a retail blob, when times get tough, customers don't want to shop you," Beemer said. "There's no reason for you to exist."

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