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Mild temps to blame for slow shopping season?

Posted at 6:00 AM, Dec 18, 2015

SYCAMORE TOWNSHIP – Nature often gets a bad rap. While many in the Tri-State have enjoyed the recent bout of warmer winter weather, higher-than-normal temps may be to blame for lower traffic counts at some local malls this December.

There's no official tally but, anecdotally at least, crowds have seemed lighter at Kenwood Towne Centre, said Cindy Hart, mall marketing manager. She said mild temperatures are to blame. The Cincinnati region has hit near-record highs this month, although a cool-down is expected.

"We don't have traffic counters here, but if I just go off what we're seeing, it feels a little down. People are just not in that holiday shopping frame of mind yet," Hart said. "It does play a role…when you're outside in shorts, because we're not used to that."

At Northgate Mall, Rasel Ahmed, manager of A & R Perfumes, a cosmetic and beauty supplier that's sold from the Colerain Township shopping center for four years, has noticed it, too. He said business seems slower this December than last.

"It just doesn't feel like Christmas," Ahmed said. "There's people coming in, but they're still window shopping, or they're waiting till the last minute or online shopping. The last four or five days will probably be better, but sales are down."

The unseasonable temps, however, may be a boost to others, particularly of the open-air variety. Liberty Center, the new $350 million Liberty Township outdoor shopping center anchored by Dillard's and Dick's Sporting Goods, has only been open since late October and has no benchmarks to share. But Rookwood Commons and Pavilion in Norwood has been "booming," Mindy Heizer, property manager, said.

"The warming temps have certainly helped bring the customers out," she told WCPO.com. "Now, whether or not this has translated into additional sales will not be known until January when the tenants report their sales for the month."

At Kenwood, Hart expects things to pick up drastically in the remaining days until Christmas – when last-minute shoppers converge to finalize their holiday to-do lists.

Officials there continue to tweak their traffic plans aimed at easing congestion, Hart said, and so far, the most recent round of road improvements – including expanded interstate exit ramps and monitored traffic cameras – are "working well." Sycamore Township officials unveiled those updates prior to Black Friday as part of a multi-year, $20 million effort to move shoppers more smoothly.

"We're expecting the last week before Christmas to be crazy," Hart said. "All of the sudden people are going to be like, 'Oh, it's here.' The clock's ticking."

In other mall news:

Kenwood Towne Centre is losing a fleet-footed children's shoe store, but mall officials say they have an unnamed interested party ready to fill that space.

Stride Rite, whose parent company Wolverine makes several brands of shoes and boots, like Hush Puppies, Sperry and Keds, is closing its storefront in the mall's lower level wing near Macy's next week.

Hart said the retailer did not renew its lease, and employees said their last day is Saturday, Dec. 26. Wolverine announced plans in 2014 to close around 140 stores nationwide to focus more on online sales.

Kenwood is in talks with a replacement retailer, but Hart said they traditionally don't reveal details until a new lease is signed. That release could be part of a laundry list of new tenants announced in January.

"This year, we had a lot of in-line holiday tenants, like Calendar Club, which is a great temp tenant, but there are new leases on those spaces," Hart said. "These would be permanent tenants that would be here year after year."