Sawgrass Mills, Florida’s second largest mall, has lost three days of business as it remains closed after major flooding. It is still unclear when the Sunrise outlet mall will reopen.
The mall has over two million square feet of retail space and more than 350 stores. But after heavy storms in the region flooded the parking lot, none of those stores were open Wednesday or Thursday.
The outlet mall is a major Broward tourist attraction that brings more than 20 million visitors annually, according to Travel + Leisure.
Sawgrass Mills is owned by Simon Property Group. Though the company does not report figures for individual malls, in 2016 the company reported $565 in sales per square foot for its outlet malls. Its outlet portfolio ended the year with 98.4 percent occupancy.
Garrick Brown, director of retail research for the Americas at Cushman & Wakefield, estimates that the sales at Sawgrass are much higher than the company’s average, closer to $1,200 per square foot. On that measure, an average day of closure could cost more than $7 million in sales.
A smaller, struggling mall might be significantly impacted by the closure, but because it is one of the country’s top-grossing malls, Brown said the floods are unlikely to harm the mall in the long-term if there is no structural damage.
“At the end of the day, this is probably going to be more of a nuisance than anything else,” Brown said. The retailers in Sawgrass are primarily established national chains, which are better positioned to absorb short-term losses than local businesses.
Policies vary among retail property owners for compensating tenants during mall closures. Though Brown said he isn’t familiar with the agreement between Simon and its tenants, “it wouldn’t surprise me if some tenants asked for a break on rent for the days where it was closed. [Simon] may or may not grant it.”
Jennifer Valdes, a spokeswoman for Sawgrass Mills, declined to comment on potential business impacts of the flood or the arrangement between Simon Property Group and its tenants. In an emailed statement from Ailys Toledo, a separate spokeswoman for the mall, Toledo said, “The safety of our shoppers, tenants and employees is our primary concern. As soon as the flood waters have receded, we will reopen the center.”
Toledo said that the mall received one and a half inches of rain Wednesday night, erasing any reduction in water levels at the mall from the previous day. The Sawgrass area received a total of 15 inches of rain total in three days. “The amount of rain received according to the National Weather Services is more than any named hurricane storm with the exception of Irene in 2005,” the statement said.
Some mall employees contacted via social media said they are waiting to hear from managers whether they’ll get paid for the time off, or whether some of the losses will cut into their paychecks.
The average retail salesperson in Florida earns $12.39 an hour, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Cassandra Reyes, a cashier at the Century 21 department store, is unsure whether she’ll be compensated for the past two days. “As far as pay goes, I’m sure that’s something they would discuss in person,” Reyes, 19, said.
Jomar Diaz, a sales associate at Nike, called his manager after receiving a text telling him not to come in for work. When he asked over the phone, he was told he would be paid for any scheduled hours.
Diaz, 19, said Thursday he hopes the mall opens soon so they can start making up for lost sales. “I really would have loved to open today. All I know is if we open tomorrow, that we’re going to need to sell more because of these past two days.”