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Mall loyalist True Confections to depart by month’s end

  • Paul Foskitt, owner of True Confections Candies & Gifts, stands behind his store's counter in late December 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 5/3/2019 4:16:08 PM
Modified: 5/3/2019 4:15:56 PM

Five months ago, Paul Foskitt was certain his candy story would never leave the Steeplegate Mall.

“People want to know what’s going on here. Every third customer every day is like, ‘When is the mall closing, when are you closing?’ We have no interest in going anywhere,” Foskitt said in December.

But six retail stores have closed in the mall since the new year, and Foskitt said slowing foot traffic has finally taken a toll on True Confections Candies & Gifts, which has been in the mall for 27 years.

That, and what he said was an unwillingness to negotiate a lower rent rate from mall owners Namdar Realty Group, is driving Foskitt out of the mall. True Confections will leave its Steeplegate location at the end of May, the owner said.

“It’s a shame,” Foskitt said Tuesday. “This company in New York ... they don’t care about the community, the economics, the employment in the area.”

Unlike other retailers that have disappeared from Concord altogether when they leave the Steeplegate, Foskitt isn’t going far. He’s planning to move to 211 Loudon Road, where he said he will have twice as much space and compete with Arnie’s and Dairy Queen selling ice cream.

True Confection’s departure is ultimately a numbers game. Foskitt said the store’s Easter transactions, one of the busiest candy days of the year, were down by 300 from last year.

And then there’s the issue of rent. The Norwood Group is offering $10 to $12 per square foot for some of its rental spots, a bargain compared to other retail spots around Concord.

But Foskitt said mall management wasn’t willing to offer them the same deal. He’s paying $30 a square foot, and when he tried to move into the vacant Dunkin’ Donuts spot next door, he said they couldn’t come to an agreement that suited him. He said the mall has lowered his rent in previous years.

“People coming in are getting decent deals,” he said. “It’s like you have to leave to get any kind of pull.”

Commercial broker Deana Arden of NAI Norwood Group works with the mall to fill vacancies. She declined to answer questions about how the mall negotiates leases with its current tenants.

The mall was advertising the $10 to $12 rates late last year, but have since taken those prices off the window ads in the mall and off the online advertisements, preferring to leave the ads open-ended, Arden said.

She did say the lease rate tenants sign for depends on a few things, including the length of the lease and the viability of the tenant. “Viability” can mean elements like whether the tenant is a regional or national business or a local start-up, she said.

“We look for some someone who is a good, viable tenant for the landlord who has the capability to stay there and guarantee a lease,” Arden said.

They typically aim for three- to 10-year leases, she said.

“In most malls, the lease rate might be a little lower as a way to get people into these enclosed malls,” she said.

For instance, the lease rate to get someone into a mall like Steeplegate may be a little lower than, say, the Epping shopping plaza as a way to entice retailers, she said.

News reports show brick-and-mortar retail has been struggling for a while now as online shopping, massive debt and a struggle to adapt continue to cut a swath through businesses.

Certainly everyone is eyeing Sears, which declared bankruptcy last fall and has closed almost all of its New Hampshire locations. The Concord location has survived several rounds of closings.

Combating this means finding more “experienced-based” tenants that provide services that cannot be bought online for malls, Arden said.

“Experiences” mean tenants like Altitude Trampoline Park, Hatbox Theatre, the Capital City Charter School and the incoming The Zoo fitness club, Arden said.

“The idea is those tenants will drive more users like the food industry, and more things of that nature will start to happen,” she said.

She said the mall is on the verge of landing a “big” retail tenant for one of its anchors – but said it’s too early to say which anchor tenant the new business would replace.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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