Marketing experts say Sweetwater faces solid future - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Marketing experts say Sweetwater faces solid future

Developments like Sweetwater are 'destinations' that attract more foot traffic than the traditional mall. Developments like Sweetwater are 'destinations' that attract more foot traffic than the traditional mall.
DECATUR, AL (WAFF) -

The potential Sweetwater deal comes at the same time as the Sears department store in Decatur closed its doors for the final time this weekend.

For the most part, Decatur residents are on board with the plan that would bring Bass Pro Shops and a number of other retailers to the River City. But can Decatur support the endeavor, when the city's mall has struggled for years?

UAH marketing professor Dr. David Berkowitz said that some stores are a destination and that Bass Pro seems to fit the bill as a destination-type retailer. The idea of the outdoor goods store coming to Decatur seems to excite a lot of people.

In a week full of excitement about the development project, another major economic event took place in Decatur, at the mall, where their Sears location closed Sunday. A mall spokesperson declined a request for an interview, but said in a statement that the mall "sees this as an opportunity that can have a positive impact. Whether we find another department store to join the mall, or if the space will be re-developed into multiple spaces is still being evaluated."

Sears is not the first anchor to leave the mall; Dillard's and JCPenney both exited the mall, with the latter re-opening as a clearance center, only to close again soon after.

However, the mall has gained some retail space; a Carmike Cinema opened at the mall, and the remaining anchor store, Belk, expanded recently. "Those anchor stores are critical for mall survival and for the survival of the other stores as well," said Berkowitz.

Brick-and-mortar stores across the country are struggling due to a changed retail climate that has led to the decline of the traditional mall. "That pressure comes from online shopping; companies like Amazon revolutionized the way that we shop," said Berkowitz.

Will the Sweetwater development face the same demise? Marketing experts say no. "These companies have figured out that they have a different attraction. Bass Pro has a different attraction for people and they can support an outdoor strip mall," said Berkowitz.

Dr. Berkowitz said that Sweetwater could certainly present an even bigger challenge for the mall. It will increase retail competition and could draw mall businesses to the new location.

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