Today came the sad announcement that Orem is losing Nordstrom. I write “sad” not because I typically purchased things at Nordstrom, but because losing a large employer is never good for a region. Also, for an area hoping to have an up-and-coming economy, losing a high end retailer doesn’t bode well.
But Orem is an unfortunately shabby town with or without a Nordstrom, and if Provo is smart they will use this turn of events as a marvelous opportunity to grab businesses from a r̶i̶v̶a̶l̶ neighbor.
The Nordstrom closure announcement seems like the proverbial nail in the coffin for the increasingly troubled mall. The old wing that used be anchored by Mervyn’s is struggling these days, and feels sort of creepy. Now, and without Nordstrom, a full two thirds of the mall will probably take on that feeling. And though the mall will likely limp along for years, recovery seems exceedingly unlikely.*
The result is that the mall’s current retailers will probably leave at some point. That’s not what I want, it’s just what I strongly believe will happen over time. Orem, Provo and Utah County can respond by, among other things,
A) Letting these store struggle long enough to convince their parent companies that Utah County isn’t a place they want to be
B) Allowing places like American Fork or the Riverwoods to snatch them up
C) Persuading them to come to downtown Provo.
Obviously, I think option C is the best one.
Basically, everything that surrounded Nordstrom should be relocated to downtown Provo. Banana Republic, White House Black Market (or whatever that store is called), the jewelry retailers, Eddie Bauer, etc. Most of these stores don’t have locations in Provo’s own sad and failing mall. With Nordstrom leaving, a convincing salesman could and should persuade them to come to a renovated downtown Provo.
And renovation is key. My vision for downtown has always been incremental, simply because I can’t think of who would invest the millions and millions of dollars needed to basically turn it into a better, historical version of the Riverwoods.
However, the malls are going to die, maybe not sooner but definitely later. Utah Valley, and Provo in particular can let all the mall stores leave permanently, or it can bring them into downtown. Provo needs to act fast, invest funds and use this opportunity to make lemonade out of Nordstrom’s closing.
*(Contrary to Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce President Steve Densley, I can’t imagine another store of even slightly similar caliber going into that spot. Simply wanting something to happen has little bearing on reality, after all. Also, here’s an interesting read about where malls generally are headed, with some interesting links as well.)