TAMPA — The pandemic has been especially hard on malls, but International Plaza is about to debut a shiny new 14,000-square-foot storefront.
Arhaus, a luxury furniture store, will open at International Plaza Friday. During the pandemic, a furniture store might be one of the safer bets in the retail arena. From Wayfair to Ikea, furniture and appliance orders have been on back order as those self-isolating in response to the pandemic makeover their homes or fashion home offices.
John B. Grandof, a real estate attorney, got a glimpse at wait times first hand when his son redid his home during lock down: He had to wait two months for a new fridge. But even with the demand for furnishings, Grandof was surprised to learn about a massive store opening at a mall.
“I wouldn’t be very bullish about malls right now,” Grandof said.
And that concern is with good reason; malls and traditional mall stores have been beaten down by the pandemic. Two major mall landlords just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week — though none of their properties are in Tampa Bay.
Arhaus specializes in handcrafted furniture and offers complimentary interior design. Their dining tables alone can set you back thousands.
“We are thrilled to bring the Arhaus retail experience to Tampa’s International Plaza and Bay Street,” John Reed, CEO and Co-Founder of Arhau, said in a statement. “Tampa’s storefront and exterior facades elicit the same timeless character as our handmade, artisan-crafted products, all while maintaining our commitment to sustainability and using reclaimed materials as much as we can.”
Phil Trocchia a marketing professor at the University of South Florida’s Kate Tiedemann School of Business and Finance, said the pandemic keeping homeowners indoors has left many wanting their spaces to better reflect themselves and their tastes.
“It’s not just work from home, people are going to school from home, shopping from home,” Trocchia said. “Their home is becoming even more of an essential place to be comfortable.”
The personalized experience offered by Arhaus is the kind of thing that will draw shoppers to the mall, even during the height of online shopping, Trocchia said.
Further, furniture is often one of those things shoppers want to feel and see in person — especially if they’re readying to invest several thousand dollars.
This is Arhaus’ fifth Florida location. The brand was founded in 1986.
Taubman Centers, the mall’s owners, demolished the walls between several small stores on the mall’s lower level near Dillard’s to make room for the store last year. City records indicate it cost $1.6 million to build the new space opening Friday.