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Valley Mall expects boosts from holiday sales

January 03, 2001

Valley Mall expects boosts from holiday sales



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


Valley Mall is optimistic about its Christmas season sales, a top mall official told Washington County business leaders Wednesday.

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Valley Mall had an estimated 7.4 million visitors last year, the highest traffic among Crown American's 27 shopping malls, said Christine Menna, vice president of corporate communications and marketing.

Although final sales figures won't be in until early February, the mall is expected to do at least as well as the country as a whole, which saw a 2.5 percent increase in sales over 1999, she said.

Menna spoke to about 40 businesspeople at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's monthly "eggs and issues" breakfast at the Plaza Hotel in Halfway.

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She couldn't shed any light on the future of Montgomery Ward, which announced after Christmas that it would close its doors. She did not know if Crown American was considering buying the store from Montgomery Ward, which owns the space.

She said she doesn't think the space will be vacant for long.

Despite the fact that the retail industry appears to be slowing down, Valley Mall is in a good position to compete because of its location near the crossroads of Interstates 81 and 70, Menna said.

Its recent $43 million expansion - which included adding a Hecht's store, a theater with stadium-style seating and a new wing with Old Navy and the Disney Store - has made Valley Mall more of a regional shopping draw, according to Menna.

A decade before Crown American bought Valley Mall in 1997, it had considered building a second mall in Hagerstown, she said.

"We saw the opportunity to expand it. That was on the agenda from the start," Menna said.

The only downside to the expansion is that it drawn some of its customers from Crown American-owned malls in Chambersburg, Pa., and Martinsburg, W.Va., she said.

Other shoppers are coming to Hagerstown and other rural malls from metropolitan areas to avoid the traffic of congested suburban malls, she said.

The retail industry does face some challenging days ahead. A recent nationwide building boom is probably due for a correction, much like the one happening in the stock market, she said.

It's too early to say how the downturn will affect Valley Mall.

"A lot of it's going to be determined by the economy," Menna said.

But the mall concept has withstood earlier predictions that it would be replaced by catalog shopping, home shopping television channels and Internet commerce.

In response to the Internet, Crown American launched a Web site in August at www.shopthevalleymall.com.

"We do view the Internet as not being a passing fad," she said.

At the Web site, shoppers can see what sales and events are happening at the mall and sign up to be notified by e-mail of sales in stores of their choice.

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