MERIDEN — Best Buy will not renew its lease at the Meriden Mall and will close Oct. 30, a corporate spokesman said Friday.
The store is among 20 Best Buy brick and mortar locations set to close this year when leases expire.
The development surprised city officials who said the closing never came up in a conversation with mall management and the Namdar Realty Group two weeks ago.
“Once we received that confirmation we asked if there was anything we can do to help,” said Mayor Kevin Scarpati. “We want to see if they can reconsider and if there is anything the city can do to keep them here. It’s such a big footprint at the Meriden Mall.”
The electronics retailer saw a surge in online sales during the pandemic as people bought TVs, laptops and other devices to make staying at home more palpable for work and learning.
“While some traffic will likely shift back to our store channel in fiscal 2022, like many retailers, we believe much of what we saw last year will be permanent,” the company said in a February earnings call, reported in Moneywise.com.
In the earnings call, Best Buy explained that it has closed 20 locations in each of the past two years and expects to close a higher number in 2021. It also laid off 5,000 employees, though it plans to add 2,000 part-time positions.
The company added that it’s trying to stay nimble by reducing the length of its lease terms. As a result, stores such as Meriden, will close with little notice. The chain closed its Enfield store in February.
Best Buy managers locally are referring customers purchasing not-yet-released products to stores in Newington and North Haven.
Mall management could not be reached for comment.
Best Buy is a formidable loss for the mall, which lost Macy’s, Sears and JC Penney in the past five years. The arrival of Boscov’s department store four years ago buffered some of the blow, and MedCraft HealthCare Realty is redeveloping the Macy’s wing into medical office space for practitioners. A dinner theater is also planning to redesign the corner space between the former Macy’s and Best Buy.
But Best Buy drew customers, particularly around the holidays when shoppers would line up after Thanksgiving dinner to get a doorbuster deal on a television, phone or laptop. The city store also had its Geek Squad on site to assist customers.
Scarpati said he went into Best Buy during the early days of the pandemic when the store was restricting the number of customers. Despite the ability to shop online, there was a need to see products demonstrated and ask questions.
“People were buying web cameras, and all kinds of equipment for home offices,” Scarpati said.
As part of their conversations with mall management, Scarpati and City Economic Development Director Joseph Feest understand the struggle for brick and mortar retailers.
“The retail landscape is changing and the mall is changing,” Scarpati said. “There is a need for more entertainment and dining. There are things we need to continue to explore outside of retailers. We are looking at not only the current state but also the future. We are still working in partnership with mall management.”