[SUMMERSIDE, PE] – The owners of Summerside's County Fair Mall are in no rush to find a replacement for one of their anchor tenants.
The parent company for Zellers, the Hudson Bay Company, announced last week that its store in the western capital was among 64 that would be closing on March 14, 2013.
Crombie REIT, which is part of the Nova Scotia-based Sobeys empire, owns the County Fair Mall.
The company's CEO, Donald Clow, said Zellers has the ultimate say over what happens with the nine years remaining on its lease in Summerside.
"Replacing a store like Zellers can take months and, in some cases, years," Clow says. "We're in touch with Zellers and they're in touch with us, but they probably won't want to pay rent for nine years."
The 64 stores, including Summerside's, were left in limbo last fall after the American department store giant Target purchased several other Zellers leases in a billion-dollar deal.
Given the long term remaining on the County Fair Mall lease, HBC could sublet the space to other tenants after Zellers moves out, or it could buy out its existing lease.
Clow previously said that most large chains like Zellers don't like to sell their leases to other retailers, which would effectively make HBC the landlord for another company's store.
He would not comment on how long Crombie would allow the Zellers space to sit empty before another tenant, or tenants, is required to fill it.
Summerside Mayor Basil Stewart says he's heard from several residents about the announced Zellers closure, but it confident of Crombie's ability to land a new tenant.
"We're lucky... that the (mall) is owned by the Sobeys corporation and my guess would be that Sobeys would not have a vacant space too long," Stewart says. "We've been inquiring for quite a while and hearing the same story that everybody's been hearing – that it's business as usual until the employees got their notice (recently). Hopefully at the end of the day, there'll be something in that space."