A handful of stores in Marley Station mall have closed, but the Glen Burnie center's owner says a wave of new merchants is expected by spring or summer.
In mutual business agreements, the owner and two tenants of the county's largest, newest mall decided against renewing leases. The two tenants ran five apparel shops between them.
Four women's shops shut after Christmas, including Caren Charles, August Max Woman, Ups & Downs and Career Image. But the division of U.S. Shoe Corp. that runs those stores decided against moving Casual Corner and Petite Sophisticates, the division's remaining Marley stores.
The 137-store mall also lost Britches of Georgetown Dec. 24. That store, which sold tailored men's suits, lacked the sales to justify staying open, said Lisa Hymes, spokeswoman at Britches' Herndon, Va., corporate headquarters. Britches Great Outdoors will remain in the mall, she said.
Shoppers will benefit from the changes, especially from new stores that have opened and others expected by spring or summer, said Richard Hackett, the mall's general manager.
December marked the first time since the mall opened in February 1987 that leases have come up for renewal.
"It's a healthy part of the shopping center industry to have turnover, because customers' tastes change and people's interests change," Hackett said. "It's always good for us to have room to manipulate. We felt we could utilize these spaces for other stores, to give customers an opportunity to shop for other things."
Some of the newly opened stores include Trade Secrets, which sells professional hair care products, Zack's Yogurt, Stash and Stella's Diner, S. Sanders Jewelers, Red Rose florist and Little Folkschildren's clothes, Hackett said.
Others coming within the next few months include Chick Fil-A restaurant, Jarman's Shoes and San Francisco Music Box, a gift shop.
Mall officials are negotiating with several apparel stores and a stationary merchant to fill some of the recently vacated space by summer, Hackett said. The mall is 93 percent leased, he said.
"It's exciting to see the changes," he said. "The new ones that come in do real well."
Officials at Taubman Co. Inc., which owns the mall, aren't worried that more stores might fail and pull out at a faster rate than new stores move in, said John Diebel, spokesman for the Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based company.
"Are we concerned that there are some stores that couldn't make a profit? Not at all," Diebel said. "The center just presents fresher stores.
"As leases expire, some come and some go," he said. "It was mutually agreed that these stores were not going to renew."
For the four women's apparel shops, the decision to give up space at Marley came out of a corporate plan in which Women's Specialty Retail, a division of U.S. Shoe Corp., terminated more than a dozen leases around the country with Taubman, said Noel Davidson, group president of Women's Specialty Retail.
Davidson declined to elaborate on the reasoning behind the move. He described business at Marley Station as "fair."
"Business wasn't terrific, and it wasn't atrocious," he said.
The company has no plans to reopen those stores at other malls, but it will continue to operate its chain at other Baltimore-area malls, including Owings Mills, Security Square and the Gallery at Harborplace, Davidson said.
As a manager of one of the stores that closed put it, "The leases here are extremely high. In order to maintain a profit,you have to be a high-volume store."
Overall, the mall's sales this year during the crucial Christmas shopping season increased from last year, Hackett said.
"You'll always find the occasional person who didn't do well, but by and large (merchants) are pretty happy," he said.