Tri-County Dillard's store converting to clearance center format

Expert: Better than an empty space

Dillard’s is converting its Tri-County store to a clearance center, after months of speculation in the real estate community that the store might close.

The 235,000-square-foot store will operate as one of 19 clearance centers in Dillard’s 300-store network “for the foreseeable future,” said Julie Bull, vice president of investor relations for the retailer, based in Little Rock, Ark.

Dillard’s touched off the speculation about its Tri-County store by agreeing to become an anchor tenant at Liberty Center , a $325 million mixed-use project that Columbus-based Steiner + Associates is planning in Butler County.

Dillard’s is one of three retail anchors at Tri-County Mall, which emerged from foreclosure in July when an Oregon investment company, American Pacific International Capital, bought it for $45 million. American Pacific President Wilson Chen told WCPO he hoped to “bring it back to its old glory,” but offered no specifics on how much he was willing to invest in the effort. Chen could not be reached Friday to discuss Dillard's strategy shift.

“It certainly beats an empty space,” said Scott Saddlemire, principal at On-Site Retail Group in Sycamore Township. “That would be a huge blow to Tri-County.”

A retail broker since 1998, Saddlemire said the Dillard’s conversion continues a long-term trend toward value retail in the Tri-County area.

“That market has changed so much over the years,” he said. “When I was growing up as a kid, we would drive close to 30 minutes to shop at Tri County. That was the big regional hub of retail back then. Over the years, you’ve had all these new projects built in the new suburbs. That market share just keeps getting eroded. So, it’s changed to be more of a value-oriented trade area today.”

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9 On Your Side reporter Tom McKee contributed the video portion of this report.

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