With the Carson's department store chain preparing to shutter its remaining stores, Chicago-area retail analysts expect the resulting drop in consumer traffic will hurt smaller businesses in the same shopping malls.
And that, some say, could lead to a "domino effect" that results in more retailers shutting their doors for good -- particularly if another anchor store in the same mall calls it quits.
"Malls can survive the loss of one anchor," said Neil Stern, a senior partner with the McMillanDoolittle retail consulting firm. "(But) if a Sears, J.C. Penney's or Macy's also closes, they will have significant issues."
Real estate consultant John C. Melaniphy III had a similar prediction for the micro-economies of the shopping malls Carson's will abandon.
"There absolutely will be a negative impact on the customer attraction and sales productivity of the malls," said Melaniphy, president of Melaniphy & Associates.
Carson's will close its remaining stores as a result of its parent company's sale to a pair of liquidation firms. The stores are expected to close in 10 to 12 weeks.
Twenty-six Carson's stores operate in the Chicago area. Most are in shopping malls, including Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills, Randhurst Village in Mount Prospect, Yorktown Center in Lombard and Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale.
A few stores in the area closed earlier this year, including Carson's at Streets of Woodfield in Schaumburg and clearance centers in Morton Grove and Aurora.
The chain's demise is yet another commercial blow to the Stratford Square Mall, which already has seen J.C. Penney and Macy's depart.
A multimillion-dollar redevelopment is in the works for Stratford Square, with entertainment venues being brought in to fill the empty store spaces.
Stronger shopping centers may view Carson's departure as an opportunity to follow Stratford Square's lead and fill the vacancies with more compelling retail, dining or entertainment options, Stern said.
Untraditional uses are possible, too, such as offices and medical facilities, he said.
"There is a need for creativity," Stern said. "Yorktown and Randhurst have already diversified their centers and have made considerable investment in reconfiguring their space."
In Vernon Hills, money has been budgeted to hire a planning consultant to examine redevelopment options for Hawthorn Mall.
"(We recognized) a strategic approach was necessary," Assistant Village Manager Joe Carey said.
Melaniphy expects other retail chains will snatch up some of the more high-profile Carson's storefronts, such as those at the Fox Valley Mall in Aurora, Hawthorn Mall and Edens Plaza in Wilmette.
"There are many viable store locations in their portfolio," he said.
Of course, Carson's likely won't be the last big box department store chain to go under. Both Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor have been closing stores, and Sears has been struggling for years.
"Many retail analysts continue to expect Sears to close," Melaniphy said.
• Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.