By Maureen N. Maratita
Do Guam’s malls beat what online vendors have to offer? The answer is yes and no.
Residents continue to shop online, although the draw of malls as destinations in Guam is back after the lockdowns of the pandemic.
The bigger malls have center courts which lend themselves to community events, plus added attractions such as movie theaters. Food courts and popular anchor and other tenants within properties or nearby contribute to foot traffic.
The retail industry is facing challenges — a shrinking labor pool and rising wage costs.
And Guam’s malls are still in recovery from COVID-19, with shorter opening hours and some tenant vacancies.
The return of significant numbers of tourist visitors can’t come quick enough. One issue that may affect spending of certain tourists is the number of luxury and mid-luxury brands no longer represented on island.
As to whether the trend of mixed use will appear in Guam so that there is a residential portion of a shopping center above retail offerings, Monte DM. Mesa, general manager of Guam Premier Outlets and Tumon Sands Plaza, said it would be easy to do. “We’d just have to get a variance,” he says. In Europe the trend is beginning. “Hawaii has started,” Mesa says. But in Guam, he says, “You can build it, but would they buy it?”
Agana Shopping Center in Hagåtña opened in 1978 and is owned by SM Prime Holdings Inc. since 2003. Retail anchors through the years included Townhouse Department Store and SM Department Store, which occupied 52,000 square feet and was at ASC for 10 years.
Ross Dress for Less opened a third Guam store of 22,500-square feet at ASC on March 4 in the former Pay-Less Supermarket. Other tenants include Fizz & Co., Vince Jewelers and a variety of fashion tenants from Primo Surf to Jeans Warehouse to SM Island.
ASC has done well with its Market Place, which opened in April 2011 as a 6,000 square-foot incubator for small businesses and can accommodate 37 tenants. The mall has about 70 outlets in total.
Michael Klepp, consultant at ASC says center has limited spots open. “We have a few upstairs; we only have two downstairs in the main mall. We are still in talks with a few large tenants.” One of those might be for the former SM Department Store space.
As to patronage, Klepp says, “Footfall has been very good since the Ross grand opening.” And while the clientele is typically local, Klepp says the spread is wider and the center is seeing “an influx of folks from throughout the island.”
Food outlets draw patronage, he says. ASC offers a Subway Restaurant, Panda Express, and Dr. Kabob among its offerings and most recently a Chan’s Hotdog and Vons Chicken.
Jollibee is in the process of construction at ASC, as is Slingstone Coffee & Tea.
If anything, Klepp would like to see space occupied by something ASC does not yet have. “For me it’s really about differentiation — that we don’t have duplications. We want it to be new; something fresh.”
The Untalan family doing business as RUMC Inc. developed Compadres Mall Guam in 1995. The Harmon Loop Road site in Dededo draws traffic to its three financial services tenants — Community First Guam Federal Credit Union, First Hawaiian Bank and Personal Finance Center, as well as to King’s Restaurant and the Infusion Coffee & Tea drive through café.
The main mall also houses a variety of small businesses that include American Music and a Honey House — the rapidly growing chain of cellphone accessories — among its 24 tenants. The property also offers a variety of small stores through the 46 at Bazaar I and 50 at Bazaar II. The Compadres Mall sits opposite a Cost U Less and on the well-traveled Harmon Loop.
Katrina Untalan, general manager of Compadres Mall could be the envy of her fellow mall managers. “We have not had a vacancy in years,” she says. “We were 100% occupied, even in the lockdown.” In fact, Compadres Mall has a waiting list. Untalan says that’s 25 to 30 for small store locations and between five and 10 for the main mall.
“Being an open-air, local mall has its advantages,” she says.
“We have a very consistent loyal tenant base that has been there about 15 to 20 years,” she says. Some of the Bazaar tenants have also been there since it opened, she says.
“My favorite thing about Compadres Mall is that we are a family-owned, local business that focuses on and caters to our local demographic,” she says.
Guam Premier Outlets purchased Gibson’s Shopping Center in Tamuning from the Fukunaga family and launched in 1997 — expanding the original property by an additional 114,000 square feet. Located on about 20.1 acres of land it has 228,000 square feet of leasable floor area and an additional pad site. and its owners – S199 SPE LLC purchased GPO in 2012. Its anchor tenant — Ross Dress for Less opened at GPO on Oct. 7, 2000 and expanded in 2017 by about 8,000 square feet. Aside from Ross, traffic is drawn by the food court, plus the Regal Guam Megaplex, and various name brand stores such as Calvin Klein, Guess and Tommy Hilfiger. On adjacent pads, restaurants such as King’s, Ruby Tuesday and Wendy’s also add to GPO’s appeal.
Monte DM. Mesa, general manager of GPO; says the movie theater is one of the draws. When “Top Gun” was shown, he says the parking was full to “back near [the former] Chuck E. Cheese’s.”
Other draws at both GPO and sister mall Tumon Sand Plaza are events and these are in planning for the rest of the year.
Mesa says maintenance and comfort at the property is essential. “I have eight different roof top ACs that cover 20,000 square feet approximately – the main building.”
The pandemic saw a downturn in occupancy, he says. “We went from 99% leased out to 87%.” That’s better than some occupancy rates, he says. Mesa is still not enforcing the joint marketing requirement for tenants.
As to incoming tenants, Mesa says, “We will be opening another Hair Town.” He is also in negotiation on former occupied properties. “Forever 21 will be next and Chuck E Cheese maybe by the end of the year.” Mesa is reluctant to split those larger spaces. He is also looking to add “a combination of a grocery and drug store,” he says.
Mesa toyed with the idea of a delivery service for GPO tenants to residents, but abandoned the idea. He’s aware that Guam residents are ordering online, but says the e-tail picture is not as rosy for retailers as it might be. “Returns are as high as 30% in the U.S., especially in 2021.”
The Plaza Shopping Center which opened in 1996, in Tumon benefits from being connected to two hotels – the the Dusit Thani Guam Resort and the Dusit Beach Resort Guam (formerly the Outrigger) and offering a variety of about 40 stores. The United Services Organization opened at the Plaza in February and typically draws traffic, particularly when there are port visits or military exercises in Guam. The Plaza is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
William Edwards, general manager, says, “The Plaza is actually three different phases of the development here.” The Plaza South has a focus on restaurants that include Beachin’ Shrimp, California Pizza Kitchen, and Vitales. The North and Central areas offer luxury brands including Gucci, Coach, and Michael Kors, plus Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga and Marc Jacobs.
Edwards says, “What we strive to do is have a good mix of tenants.” The Plaza re-opened officially June 1, though he says, “Many of the tenants remained open.” While the height of the pandemic was challenging, he says of his tenants, “Some have done better than others. The luxury brands continue to well.”
“Things are looking better,” Edwards says. “We started to really see some positive movement in April, then May was much better and for June going forward things seem to be going in a good direction. Also, the spending levels are very strong.”
Both Korea and Japan are important markets as is the luxury sector for the Plaza, Edwards says. The center has recognized that through its COVID testing program. “We actually have partnered with [the Guam Visitors Bureau] and American Medical Center — and also with Express Care — where returning tourists can get their testing for free.” Edwards says that’s a positive for the Plaza and also for the island. There is one testing center catering to the Dusit and another at the Plaza.
Interest remains from potential tenants, Edwards says. “We have dialogue on a constant basis. There are some new tenants that are coming. We’ll be announcing that in the next two to three months.”
American Sotestsu Corp. built Tumon Sands Plaza in Tumon beginning in 1972, opening the main building in December 1973. The 36-room Hotel Joinus and the Joinus Restaurant opened in January 1974, with 20 shops opening in April 1974. TSP added a south wing of 10,000 square feet in July 1977. S199 Real Estate LLC acquired Tumon Sands on Nov. 9, 2012.
Chili’s Grill & Bar, Olive Garden and Joinus Keyaki restaurant provide reasons to visit, as do a various branded stores such as Chloe, Balenciaga, as well as Vince Jewelers and the locally popular Analista & Co.
Louis Vuitton — the largest store at TSP (which the brand owns) opened in April 2006 but the 10,000 square foot global store is closed.
Monty D.M. Mesa, general manager of TSP; says it was hard hit by the pandemic. “I went from 72 tenants down to 50.”
The silver lining is that there were some surprises in tenant performance.
“We have some retailers at TSP that exceeded our expectations.” Those include Crystal Energy. Plus, “Rolex captured the market,” Mesa says of what is a flagship store at TSP.
The Micronesia Mall in Dededo is owned by Goodwind Development Corp. and was built in stages, first opening on Aug. 8, 1988, with the Phase II expansion completed in 1998. The mall has plans to extend. It now owns three acres of land near the Fatima Road entrance and plans to extend the mall with an additional building. The site is adjacent to the South Parking Garage, which fronts Fatima Road, and will feature upfront parking for 100 vehicles. Plans are to house an anchor tenant in a 30,000 square-foot building and allow for up to two freestanding drive-through restaurants.
Philip Schrage, senior vice president and leasing manager for Micronesia Mall, says, “We’re in the process of getting that rezoned. Parts of it are not zoned commercial.”
Micronesia Mall has a large food court as well as a freestanding Jollibee, which opened at the mall’s parking lot in April 2019. Including the food court, the mall has 120 tenants.
The first department store — which opened ahead of the mall — was Sterling’s Department Store, superseded by Liberty House, and now home to Macy’s Guam since 2001. In 2009 Macy’s nearly doubled in size from 81,124 square feet to 149,377 square feet and further expanded its children’s department in 2013 by 9,000 square feet, finally adding 45,000 square feet to the men’s and children’s departments to take Macy’s to 200,000 square feet in 2015.
By comparison, Kmart Guam occupies 168,315 square feet, Home Depot 156,000 square feet. and the yet-to-open Don Quijote store will offer a total building area of 246,848 square feet of which about 96,00 square feet will be for Don Don Donki’s retail. That mall is planning a food court with eight tenants, plus sit-down restaurants.
Philip Schrage, senior vice president and leasing manager for Micronesia Mall, says the mall is opening for an additional hour from June 10 on Fridays and Saturdays — so until 9 p.m.
Guam malls now typically open from 11 a.m. “The reason all malls opened at 10 a.m. was tourists,” Shrage says.
The mall is keeping the property attractive. “We’re almost finished with a total repaint of Micronesia Mall,” he says. “We’ve added additional air condition in the Center Court area,” Shrage says.
He says there are a few spaces to let, following the departure of some tourism-dependent businesses. “We have the former Payless Shoes space available and one smaller space that is less than 2,000 square feet.”
Additionally new offerings include a new store under construction on the second level of the cinema wing (Concourse 3). “It is a ladies shoes and fashion accessories store called Solection. The creator of Solection also owns the very successful fashion boutique located next store called Aura Boutique. Also, IT&E recently completed the floor to ceiling renovation of their store located across from Tango Theatres,” Shrage says.
Four tenants are expanding, he says.
Through Grandview Development, Goodwind is also developing a nearly 180,000 square-foot mall along Pale San Vitores in Tumon. “We’re also looking for a possible restaurant tenant for our Tumon Bay Mall entrance. It’s a good opportunity for somebody,” Shrage says.
Tumon Bay Mall has seen interest from potential tenants looking to lease 40,000 square feet, he says.