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The upcoming closure of the Sears store and auto center at Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth has renewed discussion about what should replace it. With shopping habits changing, retailers like Sears and JCPenney have struggled to keep their doors open. Many in the Decatur area have wondered in recent years how long Sears could remain open, particularly after it stopped selling clothing items in 2012. It might not have come as much of a shock, but now that it is official, the closing of the Sears store by early December will leave mall owner CBL Properties with two of its largest spaces to fill and shoppers wondering what will go in those places. The JCPenney’s at the mall closed this spring.

A plan for the former JCPenney space appears to be in the works as an announcement could soon be made, said Sean Phillips, CBL’s regional marketing director. Having a plan in place for the old JCPenney’s would appear like it could ease some of the speculation about the mall’s fate. Filling the Sears space might be farther down the line, but it will ultimately need to be replaced as well. Finding reputable retailers to come in could make the closures more of an opportunity to solidify the future rather than doom it. Although the retail industry is changing, shoppers seem like they will go to stores that provide an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.

The addition of the ULTA Beauty store at the mall seems to have been met with solid interest and Ross Dress for Less could be an intriguing addition when construction is completed. Phillips pointed to other recent additions such as Justice and The Children’s Place as stores that could generate more interest, especially for families. Kohl’s, Bergner’s and Von Maur seem to have a base of loyal customers. Yet, other seemingly popular stores, most notably Old Navy, have left.

So it’s hard to say what would be the best fit for the anchor spaces. I’ve heard some say they would like another large hardware store, adding another option to the Menard’s and Lowe’s stores that are nearby. An outdoors store would seem like it could do well. A grocery store has long been mentioned as a possibility in Forsyth, too. Everyone seems to have their own idea of what they would like to see. Hopefully the choices that are made can generate excitement and sustain strong interest for years to come.

Concerns have been raised about the impact the anchor closures will have on Forsyth. The village depends heavily on sales tax revenue. Residents have been able to enjoy relatively low property taxes as a result. With more reports about the struggles retailers are having, village trustees have been watching sales tax trends with increasing interest. The village might eventually have to look at other options to sustain its revenue stream if sales tax revenue continues to decline. The way things are headed, that time could come sooner than they would like unless those trends can be reversed in a more positive direction.

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​clusvardi@herald-review.com|(217) 421-7972

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