Two malls opened in the East Valley in October are stealing customers and sales from the 7-year-old Chandler Fashion Center, many of that mall's merchants say.
The most recent Chandler records show a nearly 10 percent drop in the center's December sales tax contribution compared to the same month in 2006.
In November, sales tax receipts at the mall were mostly flat, climbing only 3.7 percent, compared to the same month in 2006.
Retailers attribute the decline to Tempe Marketplace and SanTan Village, saying consumers living near those two malls are opting to shop closer to home.
"Once SanTan opened in October, we instantly just started seeing a decrease," said Melinda Fairbanks, a manager at Cinnabon. In December, Fairbanks said foot traffic was down about 34 percent from the same month the previous year. In January traffic was down 33 percent.
"I have a lot of stress and pressure from the people above me to, you know, increase the sales," Fairbanks said earlier this month.
A spokeswoman for Westcor, the Chandler mall's owner, said demand for valet service has dropped.
Sherry Decovich, Westcor vice president of consumer marketing, said the company doesn't release traffic counts, but officials expected to see "some redistribution" in shopping patterns as customers clamor to check out the newer malls. That could continue for up to a year.
"There's always a curiosity factor," Decovich said. "I don't think there's any big surprises."
Westcor owns both Chandler Fashion Center at Chandler Boulevard and Loop 101, and SanTan Village at Williams Field Road and Loop 202 in Gilbert.
Lauren Reid, a manager at a young women's clothing boutique in the Chandler mall called Electric Ladyland, said she's lost a lot of her clientele to SanTan Village. "They have a huge Forever 21 (store) over there which is killing us," she said.
Reid said she attended a staff meeting where the store's managers were bemoaning the customer decline. To try to reverse the trend and boost sagging sales, the store decided to slash prices.
Malachy Kavanagh, a spokesman at the International Council of Shopping Centers in New York, said the pool of consumer dollars in every major city is a finite resource. So, he said, it makes sense that older malls would lose customers as newer shopping centers are built.
"Certainly, you're going to have an off-setting effect somewhere," he said.
Karla Mendoza, manager of A-gaci, a woman's clothing store in the Chandler mall, said earlier this month customer traffic declined 30 percent to 40 percent at her store.
She's responded by cutting prices and work schedules by about 100 hours.
She attributed the drop to a double-whammy that started with SanTan Village's opening and continuing economic uncertainty that has cut the flow of consumer dollars into her store.