CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) — The hard times brick-and-mortar retail centers have been facing could soon strike Western New York’s largest shopping mall, as the Walden Galleria is trying to get back the shoppers the pandemic has kept away.
As one financial analyst put it, in-store sales can affect several factors on a retailer’s bottom line, including their property’s value and in effect, property taxes. Pandemic restrictions have also affected business’ abilitiy to pay their bills, including loans based on property values.
In the early days of the Covid pandemic, malls and other businesses considered non-essential were closed — but their bills didn’t stop. While shoppers seem to be slowly coming back, many others have turned to the Internet.
The Galleria mall, just like every other mall, is working through it, and I think if they have a little more time and people start to return to shopping in person, they will emerge productively,” said Lancaster Assemblywoman Monica Wallace.
Wallace pointed out, of Western New York’s major shopping malls, the Walden Galleria is the largest, and the only one that is maintaining its single purpose of retail. And she has seen it first hand.
“I saw a lot of foot traffic, and so I am very encouraged by that, and I am hopeful that as we emerge from this pandemic we are going to see sales pick back up,” she said. “Hopefully we will see more Canadian shoppers coming over.”
But there are reports that the Walden Galleria may be having trouble keeping up with the mortgage, and with Canadian shoppers kept at bay for nearly two years, Tony Ogorek of Ogorek Wealth Management told News 4 it is having an effect.
“You’ve had two years where that market has not been able to really work for them, so they’ve got multiple pressures that other types of malls aren’t facing,” Ogorek said. “Their proximity to the U.S.-Canadian border was a real benefit, but now — with Covid — has been a real detriment for them.”
The Buffalo News has reported the Galleria might miss a balloon payment on a re-structured mortgage — for the second time. But Wallace said she saw more shoppers, fewer empty store fronts and what seemed to be more Canadian license plates.
Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.