For 18 years, Barbara Bianco has sold specialty lingerie at The Shops at Kenilworth in Towson.
But in July, faced with a changing retail landscape in the advent of online shopping, Bianco announced that her store, Lingerie Lingerie, is closing. The shop, which first opened in Timonium 28 years ago, will close at the end of September.
Lingerie Lingerie’s closure comes amid a number of changes for The Shops at Kenilworth, said Brian Gibbons, CEO of Greenberg Gibbons, which owns the shopping center.
As it puts the finishing touches on a $20 million renovation, Gibbons said the company is working to bring both local and national tenants in to make The Shops at Kenilworth a destination that can give shoppers something the Internet cannot.
National clothing retailer J.Jill held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Kenilworth mall on July 26, and Gibbons said Radcliffe Jewelers will open in September. Greenberg Gibbons expects to announce two more locally based tenants in the coming weeks.
The shopping center is also bringing in more food options, including a fast-casual restaurant in the space currently occupied by Lingerie Lingerie, Gibbons said.
Bianco said to make room for the restaurant, Greenberg Gibbons offered Lingerie Lingerie a different space in the mall, but “I just didn’t think it was going to work out for me in the long run,” Bianco said.
Bianco said she was “uncomfortable” with making that move, because she could lose business until customers got used to finding her in the new location.
On top of that, Bianco said, “business has not been wonderful.” Online sales, direct-from-manufacturer purchasing and the convenience of ordering online in bulk have all cut into Lingerie Lingerie’s sales, she said.
“We provide so much service,” Bianco said, referring to shop services such as custom bra fittings. “And so many just go buy it on the Internet after we’ve told them what their sizes are.”
A 2017 report by advisory firm IHL Services found that while retail itself is not in decline, specialty apparel stores are closing at a higher rate than any other retail sector, with a net loss of 3,137 stores in 2017.
Gibbons said many retailers at The Shops at Kenilworth are facing the same challenges. His strategy is to attract tenants that offer a “destination,” such as Trader Joe’s, which opened at the center last year.
“You have to give people a reason to come there other than just to buy something,” Gibbons said.