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Guardian of the Land

BY Katherine Boccaccio

In 1960, California native Paul Garrett bought a piece of property in the southern tier of the state—Hemet, in Riverside County. For nearly half a century, farmer/rancher/investor Garrett tended the land, viewing it as the gateway to the San Jacinto Valley and envisioning the impact the acreage could one day have on the region he and his family called home.

Today, development of the 200 acres is under way, en route to becoming Garrett Ranch, a mixed-use urban village that will ultimately feature more than a million sq. ft. of retail space as well as office and residential components. It will also be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, incorporating meaningful, sustainable initiatives intended to honor the land and the man who has guarded the property for almost 50 years.

Chain Store Age talked with Stephen King, COO, and John Potts, executive VP/real estate, of Temecula, Calif.-based Garrett Group, about the Garrett Ranch project and about Paul Garrett’s namesake company’s vision for its future.

Long agricultural, “This is land whose time has come,” said John Potts. “It sits at the corner of Warren Road and Florida Avenue, two inordinately busy roads. It’s Main Street and Main Street.” A Main at Main location is supplemented by weighty demographics.

“The City of Hemet’s banks have higher deposits per capita than any in the nation,” continued Potts. “Although Hemet has been agrarian by nature, and populated through the years by ranchers and farmers, it is also a retirement community as well as a community that recently has begun to attract younger families. The demands of both have dictated a higher level of shopping experience,” he added.

That shopping experience will include a luxury cinema, a high-end 16-lane bowling alley, casual dining and department store and specialty retail in a Main Street setting that has managed to survive the conceptual incarnations of the original plan.

“We’ve been able to stay true to the Main Street concept,” said Steve King. “We have had to make some changes to the site plan to accommodate the needs of the retailers while still maintaining the desirable Main Street format.” Changes included reorienting the site from a north-south axis to more of an east-west axis “to provide key tenants the desired street visibility from Florida Avenue,” explained King.

Flower-filled gathering areas, water elements, a pedestrian-friendly setting that features contemporary architecture, and powerful, even record-setting, performance by existing retailers and restaurants in the area are some of the Garrett Ranch assets that have generated strong tenant interest, as the project nears its groundbreaking (September 2008) and completion date of 2010. But even as the mixed-use village that will be Garrett Ranch takes shape, it will never—say both King and Potts—deviate from Paul Garrett’s original vision.

“Our founder is a farmer/rancher by tradition and by heritage,” said Potts. “He has asked that we respect the land as we move forward.”

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Michaels comps down for the quarter

BY CSA STAFF

IRVING, Texas Michaels Stores reported that total sales for the quarter were $847 million, a 1% increase from fiscal 2007 first quarter sales of $839 million. Same-store sales for the comparable 13-week period decreased 2.9%.

Ceo, Brian Cornell, said, “While our overall comps for the first quarter declined 2.9%, we were very encouraged with the sales of our kids and specialty craft categories, scrapbooking and frame and art supplies. Sales in April showed a reversal of trend with same-store sales up 3.1% on a strong increase in transactions. This positive sales and transaction performance gives us confidence that our new marketing and merchandising programs are connecting with our Michaels customers.”

For fiscal 2008, the company expects same-store sales growth  to be approximately flat given the current economic environment.

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Kirkland’s 1Q sales up 2.1%

BY CSA STAFF

JACKSON, Tenn. Kirkland’s reported that net sales for the first quarter ended May 3 increased 2.1% to $84.1 million from $82.3 million for the first quarter ended May 5, 2007. Comparable-store sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2008 increased 4.3% compared with an 18.8% comparable-stores sales decrease in the first quarter of fiscal 2007.

The company reported a net loss of $2.6 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, for the 13-week period ended May 3, 2008, compared with a net loss of $7.5 million, or 38 cents per diluted share, in the 13-week period ended May 5, 2007.

Robert Alderson, Kirkland’s president and ceo, said, “The first quarter results reflect strong merchandising execution and the benefits of aggressive financial initiatives that have reduced our operating costs, improved cash flow and strengthened our liquidity. During the quarter, we experienced improved customer conversions as shoppers have reacted very favorably to our merchandise mix. The positive comparable-store sales and trimming of unproductive stores led to leveraging of occupancy and distribution costs. Combined with an improvement in merchandise margin and a year-over-year reduction in operating costs of almost $5 million, we were able to post a significant improvement in our pre-tax results.

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