The Maine Mall is adding two tenants this month with the arrival of clothing retailer J. Crew and Lush Handmade Cosmetics, which will bring the shopping center nearly to full occupancy.
The two retailers, which will occupy a total of 6,000 square feet, “will have a positive impact on sales and merchandising,” said the mall’s manager, Craig Gorris.
J. Crew, which will open Aug. 15, has 277 retail stores and 96 factory stores nationally. It has factory stores in Freeport and Kittery. The Maine Mall location will be its first traditional retail store.
Lush Handmade Cosmetics, a British company, opened on Friday in its first location in Maine. It has more than 800 locations worldwide, including more than 100 in the U.S.
J. Crew and Lush will help increase foot traffic at the mall in South Portland and could help attract other higher-end retailers, said real estate experts.
“Any kind of diversification is good for attracting tenants. Tenant mix attracts traffic — and the more upscale clients do attract more traffic,” said Karen Rich, who specializes in retail real estate for Cardente Real Estate in Portland. “Retailers follow retailers — if you can attract good retailers, others tend to follow.”
The Lush Handmade Cosmetics store is near other personal-care and cosmetics stores, such as the Body Shop and Sephora.
“People who shop at one will shop at the other and try different products,” said Brandon Lee, the store manager for Lush Handmade Cosmetics. “We’re all attracting people who want to shop for personal-care products, but we really offer a different kind of experience.”
Lush sells handmade products with cheeky names like “Honey, I Washed the Kids” soap and “Lust” perfume, and offers facials, massages and makeup testing for customers. The store urges customers to try every item before buying it.
“It’s a subculture,” said Andrea Nakamura, who drove from Portland on Tuesday to visit the store for the second time and buy “Herbalism” facial cleanser. “It’s not like any other store.”
With its new retailers, Gorris said, the Maine Mall is nearly full. It will be 100 percent occupied once temporary retailers, such as a calendar store, open for the holiday season. The Maine Mall has more than 1 million square feet of retail space.
Nationally, the average vacancy rate for regional shopping malls in the U.S. was 8.9 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to the real estate research firm Reis Inc. That compared with an 11-year high of 9.4 percent in the third quarter of 2011 and a low of 4.9 percent in the second quarter of 2001, Reis said.
Gorris said, “We’re so highly occupied that we don’t have any more room for additional temporary stores. If someone came to us now for a holiday location, we couldn’t accommodate them because we are fully occupied.”
In 2010, the mall had an occupancy rate of about 93 percent for spaces under 40,000 square feet.
Although Gorris now considers the mall full, it still has some nontraditional retail tenants, like Summit Adventures, which offers activities such as a rock-climbing wall and laser tag in the former Filene’s space.
Generally, the retail market in South Portland has been improving, said Rich, with Cardente Real Estate. The recent addition of Eastern Mountain Sports across from the mall and the arrival of a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant at 85 Western Ave. bode well for the area. South Portland recently lost an Outback Steakhouse, though.
“The better the Maine Mall does, the better the area does,” Rich said.
Margie McLaughlin of Augusta drove an hour to go to Eastern Mountain Sports to find gear for her hike on the Appalachian Trail.
“It was definitely worth the drive,” she said. “We used to have a small EMS in Augusta, but it closed. This was worth the trip.”
Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: