Bath & Body Works closing leaves mall with fewer than 10 of its original stores

  • Bath and Body Works in the Steeplegate Mall will be closing on January 22, 2022 and its employees will be moving to the Manchester store location. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Bath and Body Works in the Steeplegate Mall will be closing on Jan. 22 and its employees will be moving to the Manchester store location. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/21/2022 11:14:27 AM

The Bath & Body Works store at Steeplegate Mall will close Saturday, leaving the mall with fewer than 10 occupied storefronts of the 60 it was built to hold.

The closing comes as Bath & Body Works has shut a few of its roughly 1,700 stores in Canada and the U.S. in recent weeks according to news reports, although it has not announced any major restructuring. Five Bath & Body Works stores will remain in New Hampshire, including in malls in Tilton and Manchester.

The closing will reduce the number of open storefronts in Steeplegate Mall to six stores and three non-retail businesses. The 480,000-square-foot mall was built for about 60 storefronts depending on layout, and was anchored by four large retailers, of which only JC Penney remains.

The entire east wing of the mall, originally anchored by a Sage-Allen department store that was later part of The Bon-Ton and most recently Capital City Charter School, has been closed. The food court has been mostly empty for years and is now entirely empty.

The decline of the mall can be seen in city tax records. In 2012, Steeplegate Mall LLC was assessed at a higher value than any single site in Concord: $69 million, or almost 2% of the city’s entire property tax base. By 2020, however, its valuation had declined so much that it isn’t even part of the list of 10 principal taxpayers in the annual financial report.

Steeplegate Mall is not alone in its struggles. The U.S. saw a huge expansion of malls from the 1980’s to the early 2000’s – Steeplegate opened in 1990 – which produced a glut of shopping space as people began to favor traditional downtown areas again or move to online shopping. The situation has only been compounded by the pandemic.

In recent years Steeplegate, like many malls, has moved beyond traditional stores with such tenants as Hatbox Theater, Altitude Trampoline Park, the Zoo Health Club and the now-closed charter school.

Bed & Body Works started as The    Limited, a women’s clothing store, in the 1960s. It grew enormously over the decades both by expansion and buying or creating new chains, including Victoria’s Secret, and was part of the L Brands corporation. Last summer, L Brands spun off Victoria’s Secret and renamed itself Bath & Body Works Inc.

David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.

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