On Saturday, Ann Taylor pulled up stakes at the Mall of Acadiana. “We have a brand new retailer that is going to require at least 14,000 square feet of space, and we need the location,” says Brian Lutz, regional marketing specialist for CBL & Associates Properties, the mall’s owner. “In negotiating with Ann Taylor, instead of relocating, they decided to pull out.”

Lutz declined to name the new retailer. “They’re still going over the fine print, and the deal is not fully executed yet, so I cannot release the name,” he says.

The mall representative says he isn’t authorized to discuss the sales performance of the Ann Taylor store, which was housed in the Macy’s wing across from Banana Republic.

A message left at Ann Taylor’s corporate headquarters in New York was not immediately returned. It remains unclear whether the company will reopen the store at a new site in Lafayette.

Like most national retailers, Ann Taylor Stores Corp., which has an Ann Taylor LOFT store on Camellia Boulevard in River Ranch, is experiencing a decline in sales. On March 12 the company reported that net sales for fiscal year 2009 were $1.8 billion, compared with net sales of $2.2 billion in 2008. Sales at Ann Taylor were $456.6 million in 2009, compared with $689.2 million in 2008. At LOFT, net sales were $939.9 million in 2009, versus $1.09 billion in 2008.

Comparable store sales for fiscal 2009 fell 17.8 percent, with a 30 percent decline at Ann Taylor and a 12.7 drop at LOFT. The company, which also has factory stores, last year opened nine LOFTs, one Ann Taylor Factory store and four LOFT Outlets. It closed 18 Ann Taylors, 24 LOFTs and converted 11 Ann Taylors to LOFT. The total store count at the end of the fiscal year was 907.

Lutz was willing to comment on the Mall of Acadiana’s performance, noting that it ranks among the top performers at CBL’s 88 malls. For that reason, CBL is reinvesting in the south Lafayette property. A major re-merchandising of the mall will be taking place over the next nine months, he says. Already, Baby Gap moved from the food court area to the old Kirkland’s spot in the Macy’s wing.

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