Owner of New Hampshire’s biggest malls trying to meet Covid challenge

As Simon Property Group shores up suffering retailers, it also eyes providing distribution space to Amazon

Rockingham Park Mall SignWhat’s the future of New Hampshire’s giant enclosed shopping malls in the era of Covid-19? Simon Property Group, the largest operator of mall in the country, has a couple of possible answers.

Simon, whose holdings include the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester, Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem and the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, is exploring with online retail behemoth Amazon the prospect of turning space emptied by the demise of department stores that anchored its malls into warehouses and distribution centers.

In addition, the company is seeking to keep its properties full and its rents flowing not only partnering with the nemesis of traditional retailers but also providing aid and comfort to its victims by acquiring or investing in companies that lease space in its malls.

Simon partnered with the Authentic Brands Group, an apparel licensing firm with a history of acquiring troubled retailers — all familiar mall tenants — to acquire Brooks Brothers for $325 million and Lucky Brand for $140 million. Simon and one of its peers, Brookfield Property Partners, joined to place a bid for bankrupt JCPenney.

Reporting to investors on second quarter earnings, CEO David Simon declined to comment on any relationship with Amazon. But he acknowledged that retailers are increasingly fulfilling e-commerce orders from their stores, which he described as “a good trend long-term for us.”

Moreover, Simon has partnered with Fillogic, a company that provides logistics platforms for “micro-distribution centers,” which enable companies operating in its properties to fulfill orders and maintain inventory more timely and less costly.

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