Online, schmonline.

The oft-predicted demise of the indoor shopping mall because of Internet sales is hardly playing out at The Maine Mall, where total sales revenue per square foot has skyrocketed past pre-recession levels, according to the South Portland mall’s general manager.

Large vacancies created during the past several years by the departure of retailers such as Filene’s, Waldenbooks and Borders have long since been filled with a slew of new stores. Since October, the mall has added notable retailers including Bon-Ton, the Microsoft Store, Pier 1 Imports and Michael Kors, with more on the way.

The Maine Mall’s resurgence is partly the result of an ever-growing cadre of major retail chains that have identified southern Maine as an expansion target, said Craig Gorris, the mall’s general manager. Next in line to join the mall are work clothes retailer Carhartt and Victoria’s Secret casual wear spin-off Pink, he said, both arriving in 2015.

While Gorris would not disclose the mall’s key performance metric, sales revenue per square foot, he said that in 2013 it exceeded the pre-recession high in 2007 by 20 percent.

And 2013 was not an outlier year. Sales revenue per square foot has climbed steadily since 2010, the first post-recession year in which it reached the pre-recession level, he said.

After accounting for the two incoming retailers under contract, less than 5,000 of the mall’s 1.2 million square feet remain vacant, Gorris said. That’s an occupancy rate of greater than 99.996 percent.

That’s even better than southern Maine’s already strong average occupancy rate for retail space of 95.7 percent in 2013, according to Karen Rich, vice president, partner and broker at Portland-based commercial brokerage Cardente Real Estate. Nationally, the average occupancy rate was 89.6 percent, she said.

In general, retail occupancy rates have increased in the greater Portland area since 2009 to the point where new development has become necessary, Rich said. Meanwhile, new development already in the pipeline in other states when the recession hit caused the U.S. average retail occupancy rate to decline until 2011 before turning around, she said.

“Maine developers may tend to be a bit more cautious,” Rich said. “I don’t think we’ve overbuilt at all.”

Another contributor to the recent success of The Maine Mall and other southern Maine shopping centers is that large retail chains want to be here, she said. The reason is simple: Portland-area stores are making a lot of money.

“National brands here outperform their counterparts elsewhere,” Rich said.

Retail lease rates also tend to be reasonable in southern Maine, she said, although The Maine Mall’s owner, Chicago-based General Growth Properties, does not disclose its lease rates.

Retail properties around the mall have been leasing for between $17 and $25 per square foot per year, Rich said, which is in line with prices for comparable properties in other New England cities.

Lease rates are likely at the high end of that range at The Maine Mall, because it is considered the most desirable location for South Portland retailers, she said.

Gorris agreed.

“The Maine Mall is class A real estate,” he said. “The demand is far exceeding the supply.”

Statewide, lease rates for retail space reached a historical peak in 2006 before taking a nosedive when the recession hit the following year, according to a 2013 analysis by Mark Malone, principal and broker at Portland-based Malone Commercial Brokers. They finally hit bottom in 2011 and have been on the upswing ever since.

Improvement in the retail market has brought new jobs to Maine, as well. Retail employment in the state increased by about 2 percent from 67,480 jobs in 2012 to 68,640 jobs in 2013, according to a separate analysis by shopping center trade association International Council of Shopping Centers, based in Washington, D.C. It said retail jobs accounted for more than 11 percent of Maine’s workforce in 2013.

The demand for retail space in South Portland around the Maine Mall and in Portland’s Old Port have led to bidding wars akin to what occurred in the residential market during the housing boom, Rich said.

That’s not to say that Internet sales are a non-issue for retailers in southern Maine, however. Rich said retailers are making significant changes to adjust to the new “bricks-and-clicks” retail marketplace, such as moving into smaller and more efficient spaces.

Still, rumors of the demise of the indoor mall have been greatly exaggerated, she said.

“There’s always going to be bricks-and-mortar stores, and they are always going to do well,” Rich said.

Gorris said, the mall will continue to face the challenge of constantly trying to upgrade and improve itself to remain fresh and keep shoppers interested.

“We’re trying to create an environment and experience for our customers that is best in class,” he said. “We don’t want to be stale.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.