Route 132 Coming to a Crossroads

Retailers' hard times could change face of Cape's shopping hub...
Route 132 is coming to a crossroads as national retail shifts come home to roost (Google Street View)

Editorial

Route 132 in Hyannis is undeniably the shopping hub of Cape Cod.  While many of the retail chains that populate the area have stumbled in recent years, the Cape's strong seasonal economy has thus far kept local stores open while national chains closed stores across America.

As we enter the 2017 holiday shopping season, Toys 'R' Us sits in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, with likely store closings to be announced after Christmas.  Kmart and Sears, both owned by Sears Holdings, are struggling - with another 63 store closings announced earlier this month.  Macy's announced earlier this year that it would close 68 stores.

Some national chains have already shuttered stores along Route 132.  The most visible closure was The Sports Authority which shuttered all of its stores in 2016.  Radio Shack also disappeared from the Cape as the venerable electonics chain wound down operations.  Most recently, PayLess Shoe Source closed its Hyannis store.

The Cape's strong tourism economy has thus far kept the local Kmart, Sears, Macy's and Toys 'R' Us stores open.

Deja Vu 

Back in 2011 we took "Another Look at Route 132" and made a virtual inventory of the open, closed and vulnerable spaces along the strip.  One of the bright spots that emerged along the strip are the stand-alone Stop & Shop store, the new-ish Kohl's and Whole Foods at Southwind Plaza.  Kohl's occupies the former Stop & Shop, Whole Foods is where Borders once operated and a new retail building has been constructed next to Whole Foods. Over at the Kmart plaza, Old Navy and Five Below now occupy the former Airport Cinemas building.

In 2011 we considered the worst-case scenario of Sears Holdings closing all of its stores, including the Cape Cod Mall Sears store and the Kmart right across the street.  While Sears is not the draw it once was, Kmart still brings a lot of traffic to the strip. 

We also recognized that Macy's holds two large spaces in the Cape Cod Mall, the former Filene's store in the front and the former Jordan Marsh in the rear.  In June of this year, prominent business leader Felicia Penn wrote an opinion piece for the Cape Cod Times in which she advocated for the Cape Symphony to seek negotiations with Macy's owner, which owns the Jordan Marsh building, and Simon Malls about converting the current Macy's Menswear building into a performing arts center and new home for the symphony.  We haven't heard of any new developments on this project.  However, when Felicia speaks, people listen.

Nothing but opportunity...

Felicia Penn's reimagining of the Macy's space is a good example of how retail space can be adapted for appropriate use as bricks-and-mortar retail continues its decline.  Over at the mall, we're also following the Ten Pin Eatery being developed by Ryan Family Amusements - a dining and bowling establishment that will have a large footprint in the mall.

Some national retailers are still in expansion mode.  Both WalMart and Target are frequently mentioned as desired replacements for Kmart or Sears, should those stores exit Hyannis.  The current Kmart store could be easily converted to a small-format WalMart, as was the former Bradlee's store in Falmouth.  So long as WalMart stayed within the existing Kmart store, there is little opponents could do to block the chain coming to town. 

Across the street, the current Sears store is of a dated design and floor plan from the 1970's.  Likely the best thing for Simon Malls to do there would be to tear down the Sears store - much as they did the old Woolworth's some years back - and build-to-suit for a new tenant.   More challenging for the Cape Cod Mall would be a loss of both Macy's stores.  We've already heard an intriguing idea for the former Jordan Marsh portion of Macy's, while the front-facing storefront might be more difficult to fill.  Barnes & Noble continues to face challenges nationally, so that prime space in the mall could become available.

Down the road at the Festival plaza, Toys 'R' Us and their subsidiary Babies 'R' Us occupy significant square footage.  Festival Plaza is also anchored by Shaws, Home Goods and PetSmart.  It will be interesting to see who might step forward to fill those spaces.

Meanwhile, Whole Foods was acquired by Amazon.com earlier this year.  Speculation remains rampant on how Amazon might leverage its new bricks-and-mortar footprint - perhaps with local pick-up centers for Amazon orders, same day delivery of certain items and other adapations of Whole Foods.  Many people expect the Whole Foods acquistion to help Amazon develop a strong home home delivery grocery business, competing locally against Stop & Shop's Peapod.  

For as long as bricks and mortar retail survives, Route 132 will likely remain the primary shopping destination for Cape Cod. How that space evolves around national retail changes presents nothing but opportunity for the Cape's business community.

What business would you like to see open on Route 132?  Please vote in our poll.


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