It's official: After nearly a year of negotiations and vetting, mall owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust named HomeSense – a sister of HomeGoods – and outdoor outfitter Sierra Trading Post as replacements for the former Macy's at Moorestown Mall.

Both brands are new-to-market for Moorestown and part of the TJX empire, along with T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods – falling under the red hot off-price retail category that resonated well this past holiday season among cost-conscious shoppers.

While no definitive opening dates were given, PREIT said both stores would  debut at the mall sometime this year. HomeSense will take up 25,000 square feet and Sierra Trading 18,000 square feet of what used to be a 200,000-square-foot Macy's. At least two more tenants will use the space, spanning two levels, PREIT spokeswoman Heather Crowell said.

Off-price, or value retailers – which boast discounts of 30 percent or more on designer brands — have defied the odds and continued to add brick-and-mortar stores even as higher-priced competitors and department stores such as J.C. Penney and Sears, along with Macy's, keep closing locations and losing market share to digital shopping.

The new retail blood "further differentiates Moorestown Mall in the region and brings exclusive, in-demand brands to our local shoppers," Crowell said.

Cherry Hill Mall, considered PREIT's trophy property for its size, tenant mix, sales per square foot, and affluent demographics, sits just 3.4 miles from Moorestown Mall. It was cited as one of the factors for the decision to shut the Macy's at Moorestown Mall, because Cherry Hill also has one.

The Macy's at Moorestown Mall was one of four in the Philadelphia region ordered to close by March 31, 2017. The others were at Neshaminy Mall, Plymouth Meeting Mall, and Voorhees Town Center.

The Macy’s at Moorestown Mall was one of four in the Philadelphia region to close by March 31,2017, as ordered by parent company Macy’s Inc.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON
The Macy’s at Moorestown Mall was one of four in the Philadelphia region to close by March 31,2017, as ordered by parent company Macy’s Inc.

PREIT has yet to announce what will replace Macy's at Plymouth Meeting Mall, which it also owns.

Crowell said Thursday's news is part of PREIT's anchor repositioning strategy to fill vacated anchor spaces with tenants in hot sectors as department stores continue to struggle.

Sears announced another round of closures of 103 Kmart and Sears stores earlier this year, while Macy's is working to shut 68 stores by March 31 on top of the 100 it closed by early 2017.

In recent months, PREIT announced several replacements for former department stores in its portfolio. They include a Dick's Sporting Goods, Field & Stream and HomeGoods opening in a former Sears space at Viewmont Mall in Scranton, and a Dick's Sporting Goods opening this month along with a Fine Wine and Good Spirits that debuted in November 2017 to replace Sears at Capital City Mall in Camp Hill, Pa.

In the last year, PREIT’s stock has fallen from $19.91 to $9.73 Thursday. “PREIT has higher leverage than it appears,” said REIT analyst Floris van Dijkum at Boenning &  Scattergood in Conshohocken on why PREIT’s stock has dipped. “When bond rates rise, companies with higher debt tend to under-perform. While PREIT has A malls, such as Cherry Hill and Willow Grove, where much of the company’s value is tied up, it also has higher exposure to lower-quality B- and C-malls, where retailer demand is weakcr, which scares investors.”

In space less than a fifth of the former Macy's at Moorestown Mall, HomeSense will sell off-price home furnishings and accessories from designer brands and will be accessible from both the exterior and interior of the mall. Sierra Trading Post will offer name-brand gear for the outdoor enthusiast, from apparel and footwear to adventure gear and even home decor.

Moorestown Mall is home to Lord & Taylor, the Regal Stadium 12  & RPX movie theater, H&M, and Rizzieri Salon & Spa, and several restaurants.