And another one bites the dust: Washington Square shrinking again.

The shrivilling of the Washington Square mall is continuing with a “Going out of Business” sale at Pier 1’s store. 

With malls across the country facing challenges even before the pandemic, the disease and associated economic upheaval has made things worse.

Pier 1 Imports, which was founded in 1962, filed for chapter 11 protection in early 2020 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Richmond, Va. and had hopes of a sale to an interested buyer, but none emerged.

On May 18, 2020, the company said it would permanently close all its 540 retail stores, including one at Washington Square, and then reopen them after the COVID-19 shutdowns. At that point they would proceed to liquidate all their merchandise in “Going out of business” sales. Pier 1 aims to have all its stores permanently shuttered by October.

Pier 1 traces to a single store in 1962 that sold beanbag chairs and love beads to hippies in San Mateo, California. It expanded to offer just about anything for the home, from lounge chairs to curtains, and it later adopted the logo: “From Hippie to Hip.” At its height, Pier 1 had more than 1,200 stores.

But in recent years, its business slowed as it struggled to compete with online retailers Wayfair and Amazon, which sold products sofas at a lower price and delivered them quickly.  Big-box chains like Target and Walmart also strengthened their home goods offerings.

The original Washington Square mall encompassed 1,093,500 leasable square feet and was the largest enclosed shopping center in Oregon. It has a long history of change and renewal.

A 160,000 sq. ft. Meier & Frank store was the first to open for business on August 16, 1973. A 211,900 sq. ft. Sears store came next in October of that year, followed by a 120,000 sq. ft. Lipman’s in November. In May 1974, Nordstrom made its debut with a 108,000 sq. ft. store, followed by an 89,300 sq. ft. Liberty House store in August 1974 and a 210,000 sq. ft. J.C. Penney store in August 1975.

Turnover among the larger stores began within a few years, but the mall weathered changes well and its current owner, Macerich, a real estate investment trust, has been rewarded strong average sales per square foot. But much greater challenges have now emerged, particularly with the mall’s anchor stores, but with some smaller retailers as well.

What store will close next? There are lots of candidates. Just wait and watch.



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