Big 5 Sporting Goods will leave its 16-year home at the Three Rivers Mall in Kelso in January and will open a new store at the Triangle Center in Longview early next month, store officials said Thursday.
The California-based retailer has been looking to move out of the indoor mall for months, mirroring a trend among retailers nationwide. The new Longview site, located between Chase Bank and Office Depot, is bigger and allows the sporting goods store to expand its hours, Big 5 officials said.
“I think it will be more convenient for the customer,” store manager John Mouneir said.
Indoor malls nationwide were hit hard by the recession, and they’ve been slow to recover as retailers are seeking are increasingly seeking open-air spaces and fighting competition from online sellers.
Vacancy rates at indoor malls have ticked down over the last year to around 8 percent. Nevertheless, a decade ago vacancy rates were only about 5 percent, according to Reis Inc., which tracks retail trends.
Mall manager Linda DiLembo declined to reveal the vacancy rate of Three Rivers. The mall is down to one food seller and has not found a permanent anchor tenant to replace the Emporium, which left in 2004. Three Rivers officials have met with representatives with national retailers, restaurants and other businesses to replace Big 5, DiLembo said, declining to name specifics.
However, DiLembo said she’s optimistic about the mall’s future. Regal Cinemas expects to start construction soon of a new 12-screen movie theater in the former Sears space, which will boost foot traffic and attract more businesses to the mall, she said.
Three Rivers officials are also adding new services, such as free wireless Internet, DiLembo said.
For the Triangle Center, the addition of Big 5 is a big win, making the outdoor mall nearly full. Key sites still available are the former Just Music and More site at the east end of the outdoor mall and a former mattress store across the parking lot.
Over the last three decades, the retail core of the Longview-Kelso area has flowed back and forth like water sloshing across a bathtub. When the Three Rivers Mall opened in 1985, big retailers such as Sears fled downtown Longview for the promise of an expanded customer base in Kelso along Interstate 5. In recent years, stores with a long history at Three Rivers, such as Diamond Showcase and now Big 5, have come back to open-air sites in Longview.