By Jessica Hall
SOUTH PORTLAND — The Maine Mall will be getting a new anchor tenant with the arrival of department store Bon-Ton Stores Inc., which will feature clothing, cosmetics and home goods.
Bon-Ton will fill the site vacated by Filene's in 2006. Part of the space is currently used by Summit Adventures, which is looking for a new location.
Bon-Ton will join other anchor tenants such as Macy's, Sears and JCPenney. It will begin remodeling the 120,800-square-foot facility at the Maine Mall in February for completion by mid-September.
"It will add great energy to the mall. The stores right outside Bon-Ton will benefit from extra traffic," said Maine Mall General Manager Craig Gorris. "They are a great merchant. The brands they offer -- Clark's, Clinique, Izod, Guess, Levi's -- fit really well with the mall."
The arrival of Bon-Ton will put the mall, which has more than 1 million square feet of retail space, at nearly full capacity, Gorris said.
The Maine Mall's occupancy rate exceeds the national average. In the U.S., the vacancy rate for regional shopping malls was 8.7 percent in the third 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.
"Attracting an anchor tenant is a really great sign for the economy," said Curtis Picard, executive director of the Retail Association of Maine. "These larger companies certainly have a process in place and do their homework on a region. They don't expand without properly doing due diligence."
Maine's general retail sales, which include clothing, furniture and household goods, rose to $2.18 billion in the first nine months of the year, up 3.3 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the state of Maine.
The mall will be Bon-Ton's first Maine location. Bon-Ton also operates stores elsewhere in New England, including Concord, N.H., South Burlington, Vt., and Westfield, Mass.
"When the opportunity was presented to go into Maine, it was a natural extension of our existing presence in New England," said Bon-Ton Vice President Mary Kerr.
The company said it looked at many issues, including demographics of consumers in the market, in deciding whether to open at the Maine Mall. It has no existing plans to expand elsewhere in Maine, Kerr said.
Since Bon-Ton will be new to Maine, it will likely work in the coming months to raise awareness about the brand and do promotions to attract shoppers to the store, Picard said.
The arrival of Bon-Ton could encourage other retailers to enter the Maine market, as well. Earlier this year, the mall added clothing retailer J. Crew and Lush Handmade Cosmetics.
"We believe we can attract new customers as well as existing customers with the value and quality of merchandise we offer," Kerr said.
The number of jobs at the new store was not immediately available.
In total, Bon-Ton Stores Inc. has 273 department stores in 24 states under the names Bon-Ton, Bergner's, Boston Store, Carson Pirie Scott and Elder-Beerman, among others.
Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: