Sex does not necessarily sell, at least not in Hobart.
Abercrombie & Fitch, known for racy ads featuring semi-nude models, and the lingerie store Aerie have closed at the Southlake Mall in Hobart. Abercrombie Kids, a spin-off of Ohio-based Abercrombie & Fitch, also shuttered its store in the super-regional mall off U.S. 30.
Signs posted outside the vacant storefronts promise new retailers are coming soon.
"Deals for those spaces are in progress but I don’t have any new tenant information to release at this time," said Southlake Mall marketing director Erin Webster.
Last summer, clothing retailer The Gap closed its Southlake Mall location, but the vacant real estate has already been filled by Buckle, a youth-oriented clothes store that specializes in jeans.
Abercrombie & Fitch and Pittsburgh-based American Eagle Outfitters, Aerie's parent company, have been downsizing nationally in recent years. Abercrombie, known for darkened nightclub-like stores that pulse with dance music, hard-bodied male underwear models, and provocative catalogs that have been likened to soft-core pornography, shut down 71 U.S. stores in 2011 and then announced it would shutter an additional 180 underperforming stores by 2015. The retailer had a store on the second floor of the mall, and a separate shop selling children's fashions on the first floor.
Spokeswoman Carolina Madero said the Hobart stores were closed in keeping with the retailers long-term strategy to close underperforming locations.
American Eagle has been closing 25 to 40 underperforming stores a year, including standalone Aerie retail stores that sell intimate apparel and workout clothes under the Aerie brand name. The American Eagle Outfitters store remains open in Hobart.
"Retail sales are still behind where they were before the recession," said Micah Pollak, an assistant professor of economics and Indiana University Northwest. "Consumers still need a little more confidence and disposable income. Also, unemployment is fairly high."
A wave of store closings has been sweeping the nation, as online shopping continues to gain ground on the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar kind. Major retailers that announced store closings so far this year include Macy's, J.C. Penney's, Sears and Radio Shack.
"Abercrombie is fairly high end, and when people are feeling pinched they will substitute by shopping at Old Navy or somewhere like that," Pollak said. "There does not seem to be any reason to be concerned about the mall because there are not a whole lot of empty shops."
The nearest remaining Aerie and Abercrombie & Fitch stores are at the Orland Square Mall in Orland Park.