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Mall future uncertain

Research suggests that plenty of Concord area residents will be hitting the stores this holiday season, perhaps beginning with Intown Concord-sponsored Plaid Friday on Nov. 24 and Shop Small Saturday the very next day.

The city’s annual Midnight Merriment event will take place Dec. 1 from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Dec. 2.

According to National Retail Federation research, 69% of Americans plan to shop during or immediately after the extended Thanksgiving Day weekend.

Some will visit stores but many will buy online, creating a particular challenge for shopping malls, including the Steeplegate Mall in Concord.

When Steeplegate Mall opened in 1990 there was no Amazon.com or online shopping in general.

Some say that these innovations, once thought of as amazing technological advances, are single-handedly killing this local mall, which sold in 2016 for a fraction of its original value, according to reports published in the Concord Monitor and Union Leader.

People have grown accustom to seeing few shoppers at Steeplegate, which sits at 270 Loudon Road.

In October one store was certainly lively, and that was Party Halloween, which was littered with people at the start of the month.

There visitors could find a legless zombie figure stuck on a fence and little kids running around with parents, working together to find the cutest, or in some cases the creepiest, costumes ranging from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and superheros to horror icons.

In comparison to other, more quiet stores, this one seemed to keep sales going for a location eagerly for any and all customers.

A barren food court, by contrast, is a familiar sight at this point. Only a few people were observed eating there on a recent visit, and one worker stopped to chat with friends, apparently having no other work to do instead.

It seemed fitting that only one half of the sign for Dunkin’ Donuts was lit.

The True Confections sign advertising fresh fudge did not seem to be enough to drive up attendance.

If these stores don’t start making money, they could join well more than a dozen closed stores.

Some are making creative use of vacant spaces at the mall. Hatbox Theatre, for example, has taken over a 4,500-square foot space on the south side of the mall next to Chico’s.

The space seats “up to 99 in a thrust-style setting (three-sided seating). Hatbox has easy accessibility directly from the parking area with designated parking spots in front of the theatre, a front row of seats on the ground level and two wheelchair accessible seating positions at either end of the front center row with companion seats which may be reserved ahead of time,” according to its website.

Upcoming Hatbox shows include Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Dec. 1-17. Tickets for each 7:30 p.m. show cost $14 for students, seniors and Hatbox Theatre members, $17 for adults and $12 for senior members.

In the meantime, mall workers prepare for shoppers every day. In the photo at left a worker patrols down the aisles of stores with a bag of trash slung over his shoulder. He walks past the vending machine and a shoe store and a gift shop.

He walks past no one, and no one walks past him. The only other people in sight are about a 100 feet away.

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