The Mall of San Juan reported a 30 percent growth in sales per square foot during the first nine months of the year, continuing “strong post-hurricane ramp-up,” said Robert Taubman, CEO of Taubman Centers Inc.
The mall operators also said foot traffic to the center is up 20 percent year-over-year.
“Overall reduction of retail real estate in the island appears to have altered shopping patterns and has brought new resident customers to the center,” he said during a call with analysts to discuss third quarter results.
Hurricane María dealt a severe blow to the mall last year, causing enough damage for it to remain closed for a month after the storm passed.
During the call, Simon Leopold, Taubman Centers Inc.’s CFO, said the company is still negotiating business interruption insurance payments, which he described as a “process.”
“It’s an even more complicated process in San Juan, given that it’s a relatively new asset with less operating history. So, we’re having those conversations. The conversations are proceeding well. But they are taking a bit longer than we expected at the beginning of the year,” he said.
Taubman Centers Inc. had predicted it would receive $10 million through a combination of net operating income and business interruption insurance this year.
“Our guidance today, so updated on this call, assumes about in the area of $5 million of NOI for San Juan this year. That’s the NOI portion of that. And we are not necessarily budgeting the business interruption proceeds to come in this year,” he said. “It’s still uncertain as to the timing there.”
Since its reopening, the tenant mix at The Mall of San Juan has changed significantly, with the exit of many of the luxury brands previously in the lineup. In their place, The Mall of San Juan has signed up local retailers and restaurants.
Taubman predicted that the upcoming reopening of one of its anchor stores, Nordstrom — on Nov. 9, ahead of the holiday season — “should add significant momentum to the center.”
The 138,000 square-foot store also sustained significant damage from the storm and remained closed since. As part of its recovery, it has updated the shopping experience it will offer Puerto Rico customers, store officials said.
Other stores opening in coming days are Banana Republic — which also underwent repairs — and Novus, a new tenant that will open the 19th store in its chain, creating some 20 new jobs. The local retailer invested $600,000 in its new location, which will open Nov. 1, this media outlet learned.
Meanwhile, the mall’s other anchor tenant, Saks Fifth Avenue, is still without a reopening date and in litigation with the operators.
Taubman said Saks is required to rebuild and reopen as quickly as possible, but the luxury retailer has not begun that process yet.
“And we’re really not in a position to give…much more comment than that given the litigation,” Taubman said.