Despite Store Closures, Empire Mall Hopeful This Holiday

Eye on KELOLAND

Stores are gearing up for their busiest time of year. 

The holiday season can make or break a business. 

This year the Empire Mall lost several stores, including Younkers, Sears and Toys”R”Us. 

That leaves many people wondering how the mall will make the most of the most wonderful time of the year. 

Remember the Midnight Madness when shoppers would stay up all night to get deals at the break of dawn on Black Friday?

“I am going for a home theater system at Sears,” Ashley Labrie said seven years ago.

While Black Friday may be a little less crazy these days, there are still plenty of people who travel to shop at The Empire Mall. 

“It’s been a busy fall at home. We farm and ranch,” Joe Bolton said.

Colome farmer Joe Bolton is taking time off for a daddy-daughter day. 

“I’m happy with the mall because while the girls shop, they have a terrific food court. I can hang out here. They have a nice western store. I can go to that,” Bolton said.

Even though malls across the country are struggling, this Sioux Falls venue continues to be one of the state’s top tourist attractions.

“You come out here any day of the week, and you look around. There’s always something going on,” Empire Mall Manager Dan Gies said.

While there seems to be a lot going on at the mall, three of the Empire’s largest stores closed within the past year, including Sears, Younkers and Toys “R” Us.

“The traffic is slightly down because of some of the anchors,” Gies said.

Still, Gies is optimistic. Scandinavian Designs will open in the next couple of months in the former Toys”R”Us building. The mall also has a plan for the former Younkers space. 

“There will be some announcements coming soon. I hate to be vague like that, but there are. They are going to be very positive. We’re going to be in better shape than we ever have,” Gies said.

While Toys”R”Us is no longer open, another retailer at the Empire Mall, JCPenney, has expanded its toy selection to make up for that loss.

JCPenney is also one of the businesses that’s offering buy online, pick up in store. Macy’s is also remodeling part of its location to emphasize that service.

“That presents a great opportunity for all of the retailers to have the customer come in one more time,” Gies said.

Potential customers could also be stopping in to see Old Saint Nick. Gies says pictures with Santa, along with the updated and expanded play area, drive a lot of people to the mall.

“We have more than ten additional specialty retailers that we’ve added for the holiday as well,” Gies said.

Added features that Gies hopes will lure in shoppers like Bolton for years to come.

“It’s comfortable and easy to walk around and see all of the stores,” Bolton said.

Hopeful stores this holiday season. 

The mall is opening one hour earlier this year on Thanksgiving at 5 p.m. 

JCPenney is opening its doors even earlier–at 2 p.m. 

You can find more details about store hours here.
 

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