Wheaton Costco adds life to shopping mall -- Gazette.Net


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About a month after it opened its doors, the Costco store at the Westfield Wheaton shopping mall has brought in new businesses and now new customers to a part of the mall that has needed a boost.

Michael Pierre, a manager at the Friendly Faces Barber Shop, said the southern part of the mall — where Costco now sits along with Dick’s Sporting Goods and near Sears — was once nearly empty.

The introduction of Costco on April 10, however, has changed that, he said.

“It’s great,” Pierre said. “It’s more people, more opportunity for business.”

While the store hasn’t seen a major increase in its customers, Pierre said, the customer traffic around the barber shop has increased significantly, exposing more people to the business.

“It’s not tapering off at all,” he said.

Customer traffic at the mall has generally increased following Costco’s arrival, said Ken Buckner, the mall’s marketing director, though he said he could not divulge the exact numbers.

“So far, it’s been a solid, significant increase,” Buckner said.

Costco also helped draw in new businesses keen for a spot near the store, he said.

There was “a ton of interest from retailers once the Costco deal was in place,” Buckner said, resulting in 12 new signed leases at the mall.

Martin Mayorga, founder and president of Mayorga Coffee, said his coffee shop in the mall — which opened the day after Costco opened — is the smallest of the company’s Rockville and Oxen Hill stores but has the same roughly 12 to 14 employees as each of the others.

The store’s sales have been about 25 percent higher than those of the other non-airport locations, Mayorga said, a fact he largely attributes to the Wheaton store’s location directly across from Costco in the mall.

“It’s funny because the footprint is smaller, but everything else is bigger,” he said.

Mayorga said his company has sold products in Costco stores and recognized the boost that could come from a location near the wholesale store.

“We were excited and interested in going there because Costco was there,” he said. “We know what kind of foot traffic they bring in.”

The Banner’s Hallmark store near Costco has experienced a postive change, said manager Duc Duong.

Duong said that — compared to the same day in 2012 — the store saw a 161 percent increase in its sales on Costco’s grand opening day April 10.

Since then, he said, the store has seen a 30- to 70- percent increase in its daily sales.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in customer traffic and sales,” he said.

Duong said the store — which has been in its current mall location about seven years — experienced a slight decrease in sales after the Hecht’s department store that once occupied the new Costco location left years ago.

Customers assumed part of the mall was closed, and there would be days when “we weren’t busy at all,” he said.

While he said he couldn’t disclose information related to customer traffic, Pat Fahey — general manager for the Wheaton Costco — said the store is “nice and healthy,” with customer traffic on par with the company’s Greenbelt and Gaithersburg locations.

Fahey said he spoke informally with about 20 owners and managers of mall businesses who say they are “optimistic” about the added customer traffic.

“It was kind of like the dead end of the mall if you will,” he said.

lpowers@gazette.net