In response to a wave of closures in the retail market for 2017, 2018 might be a year of lawfully reviving retailers who closed up shop earlier than their lease allows.
After closing its doors in October, Whole Foods is one retailer already hit by a legally-enforced reopening. A King County Superior Court judge was in favor of Bellevue Square shopping center mall owners who sued Whole Foods for breaking its long-term lease, and is forcing the grocer to reopen a Seattle-area 365 store in the next fourteen days.
“We don’t want a check,” David Nold, the Bellevue lawyer representing the mall, said according to the Seattle Times. “We want Whole Foods to open and operate.”
Despite the store’s sales not meeting the grocer’s projections after its September 2016 opening, The Seattle Times reports Whole Foods stated the closure was related to issues at the site, rather than a reassessment of the 365-store concept.
In the original 20-year lease, the grocer had committed to keeping the 34,000-square-foot site open seven days a week for the first ten years. While Whole Foods has continued to pay rent, which its attorneys argue satisfies its lease obligations, the judge decreed the lease contained no provision that allowed Whole Foods to vacate the store if the store was deemed unprofitable.
According to a report by Business Insider, Whole Foods is the second major chain involved in lawsuits filed by property owners that has been forced to reopen after closing. A judge also ruled in a separate case that Starbucks must keep operating 77 Teavana stores that it had planned to close.
What does 2018 hold for major retailers in flux? Deli Market News will continue to report as the story unfolds.