REAL ESTATE

Nordstrom Rack to Open Another Washington Location

BY CSA STAFF

Seattle, Nordstrom Inc. will open a Nordstrom Rack discount store in Tukwila, Wash., this fall, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal. The 35,000-sq.-ft. store will open in Southcenter Square, a 231,000-sq.-ft. shopping center on Southcenter Parkway.

Filled with merchandise from Nordstrom.com and its full-line stores, Nordstrom Rack sells these goods at discounts ranging between 30% and 75%. The Rack stores also feature special-purchase items.

The retailer operates five Nordstrom Racks in Washington, including Lynnwood, downtown Seattle, Auburn, Bellevue and Spokane.

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Form and Function

BY CSA STAFF

Some of my friends—the ones that consider themselves “in the know”—are all abuzz about American Apparel. They think the Los Angeles-based retailer, which has been raising its profile of late, is hip and happening.

“The clothing is inexpensive and basic, but very cool,” one pal said. “It’s what Gap used to be.”

Another friend, this one in the industry, expressed surprise that I hadn’t written about American Apparel, as much for its business success as its social conscience.

“It seems like your kind of company,” he said. “I think it’s going to be the next ‘big’ brand.”

My friends are right—to an extent. American Apparel has been on a tear, opening some 150 stores in cities around the nation and in select global capitals during the past three years. Its target audience, described as “young metropolitan adults,” view the brand’s brightly colored T-shirts, underwear, sweats and leggings as hip wardrobe staples. As for the company’s coolness quotient, well, even virtual characters want to wear its clothes: A few months back, American Apparel opened a “store” on the popular on-line-game site, Second Life.

In a point of distinction, and unlike most of its competitors, American Apparel doesn’t import garments. All of the clothing is made at its factory in downtown Los Angeles. The retailer promotes the business as being “sweatshop-free,” and pays its mostly Latino factory workers a healthy wage, adding in low-cost health insurance, English classes, bus passes, subsidized lunches and even free, on-site massages.

But it’s not just on the labor front that American Apparel plays by its own rules. The company was founded by Dov Charney, a Canadian native who is sometimes referred to as the Hugh Hefner of retailing. The controversial executive, who has gone on record saying he feels free to engage in consensual relationships with employees, has cultivated a freewheeling culture at the company. In 2005, three sexual-harassment suits were filed against him and American Apparel that focused on the sexualized workplace.

Charney’s behavior is less than inspiring, and not very socially progressive, at least to my way of thinking. The same goes for the sexual way it markets product. The truth is, I think American Apparel stores are on the creepy side. The walls are covered with product shots, which are nothing more than grainy snapshots of young people (some very young) in various states of undress. Some of the poses are highly suggestive (I’m talking spread eagle). A similar theme runs through the company’s advertising and Web site. The seemingly candid nature of the photography only makes it look creepier. The fact that Charney personally photographs some of the women for the ads is odder still.

American Apparel’s coolness factor and pro-labor stance have made it a darling of hipsters. But I don’t think it deserves the free pass that some give it. As I wrote this, the company announced it had been acquired by Endeavor Acquisition Corp., a small, publicly traded investment group. Maybe public scrutiny will force American Apparel to clean up its act. Only then will it have a shot at becoming the next big brand.

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BY CSA STAFF

History in the Making

Playing off the historic heritage of the circa 1758 town of Leesburg, Va., joint-venture developers Cypress Equities and Kettler will develop The Village of Leesburg, a mixed-use project that will include retail, office, restaurants and residential. Wegmans will anchor the village center, which will be home to national and regional retailers and upscale restaurants. Upon completion, the village center will include 430,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 137,000 sq. ft. of office space and 25,000 sq. ft. of restaurant space.

Cypress Equities will develop the retail portion of the project; Kettler will develop the project’s office space, the hotel and conference center, and the residential components, which include apartments, condominiums and a 300-home active-adult residential community.

Work is under way on two new roads and an interchange; construction on The Village of Leesburg is slated to start spring 2007.

New Life in Macon, Ga.

A joint-venture development between Jim Wilson & Associates and General Growth Properties is under way, and will bring a desirable Main Street shopping center to a 67-acre site in Macon, Ga. The Shoppes at River Crossing, which began site work last August and launched construction shortly thereafter, will feature 735,000 sq. ft. of retail, including a 300,000-sq.-ft. lifestyle center, two department stores and a 100,000-sq.-ft. power-center component.

Architectural firm CMH Architects of Birmingham, Ala., has designed a Main Street layout for the center, with a contemporary architectural design that features a village green with European-style kiosks and a children’s park.

Completion is slated for spring 2008.

Duane Reade’s EastCoast Presence

EastCoast, a mixed-use development in the northernmost section of Queens West on the waterfront in Long Island City, N.Y., will be home to a 10,000-sq.-ft.Duane Reade drug store. Opening in the second of EastCoast’s two rental towers, Duane Reade has committed to a 15-year lease with plans to open in 2008 when the second tower is completed. A yet-to-be-named food market will occupy the space adjacent to the drug store in the combination residential-retail development.

Small Luxuries

In just 16-ft. by 16-ft., high-end luxuries will be presented to shoppers at The Shops at Columbus Circle in the Time Warner Center in New York City. Luxury Merchandising Units, or LMUs, leased to Petrossian, Swarovski and Johnnie Walker Blue, were unveiled during the 2006 holiday season, with additional luxury brands to be added for 2007.

The self-contained stores, modeled after the pop-up store trend, feature their own entrances, warm wooded walls and glass shelves, and are designed to blend with the elegant surroundings of Time Warner Center.

The mobile rental spaces will be strategically placed to take advantage of high-traffic areas within the shopping center.

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