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To mall or not to mall
July 28, 2012 - Harry Eagar
Some background on the controversy about the Kihei megamall:
Less than 30 years ago, the sum total of national retailers on Maui was Sears, National Dollar and Woolworth, among general retailers. No Kmart, no Wal-mart.
Today, no Woolworth and no National Dollar.
There weren't a lot of specialized national retailers here 30 years ago, either: no Pier One, no Sports Authority (which didn't yet exist).
Today we have outlets from Tiffany to Home Depot and it night seen that rural Maui has caught up with national urban retailing trends. Far from it,
Around 1990, a speaker brought in by the Main Street Association asserted that there were 140 national chains that were NOT on Maui.
I haven't seen any more recent estimate, but although we have added many, many national chains since 1990, my guess is that the number today would be even higher than 140.
There are a lot more national (and even international) retailers like Ikea than there used to be.
If you think about just fast food chains, Maui lacks dozens. Chick-Fil-A is in the news, but on Maui you cannot either support or protest its position about marriage, because it isn't here.
Neither is Sonic, Long John Silver's, Popeye's, Boston Market, Friendly's and many more.
Among non-food retailers that are still absent are Target (probably on its way soon), Kohl's, Bed Bath & Beyond, Pottery Barn and on and on.
This helps to explain the desire of developers to build more malls on Maui. Maui may or may not be a top tier location -- it wasn't for J.C. Penney -- but national chains have to expand to satisfy Wall Street.
This may not be a real controversy. There was the same commotion before Kmart opened, and while Km art has not been a success, the parking lots at Costco and Wal-mart are crowded.
The point is that, by national standards, Maui is seriously underretailed.
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