REAL ESTATE

Sunglass Hut launches retail kiosk concept, Shaded

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Sunglass Hut has debuted a new retail brand, Shaded, in the form of a freestanding, open-air kiosk. Targeted at Millenials, the format puts an emphasis on interactivity, with a built-it photo booth that allows for on-the-spot photo taking and photo sharing. (See photos here.)

Developed and designed by IDL Worldwide, Pittsburgh, the kiosk has an American industrial-vintage inspired look with reclaimed wood, metal beams and wired glass. The kiosk is designed with sp-special bi-fold doors that close and lock, protecting the merchandise at night.

To date, Shaded has opened freestanding locations at Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus, Ohio, and the Mall at Tuttle Crossing, Dublin, Ohio, along with a location in Macy’s, at Queens Center, New York City, and the Sunglass Hut Store, at Easton Town Center, Columbus, Ohio.

The Shaded brand has plans to expand the new concept and brand footprint with potentially 10 more retail locations this year, including eight in-store locations in Sunglass Hut.

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REAL ESTATE

New Nordstrom Rack planned for Utah

BY Marianne Wilson

Seattle — Nordstrom plans to open a Nordstrom Rack at University Crossing in Orem, Utah.

The approximately 30,000-sq.-ft. store is scheduled to open in spring 2015. University Crossing is owned and managed by University Crossing Shopping Center.

Nordstrom first arrived in Utah in 1980 when it opened a full line store in downtown Salt Lake City. The first Nordstrom Rack opened at Sugarhouse in Salt Lake City in 1991 and the company currently has two other Racks at Station Park in Farmington and Commons at South Towne in Sandy. The company also operates two full line stores at City Creek Center in Salt Lake City and Fashion Place in Murray.

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REAL ESTATE

A Splash of Cold Water

BY Jeff Green

The recent announcement from Coldwater Creek that the women’s apparel brand will seek Chapter 11 protection and plans to start liquidating its inventory didn’t exactly come as a surprise. It has been years since the company posted a quarterly profit, and industry analysts and observers have been pointing to Coldwater’s worrying inability to compete stylistically in an increasingly competitive and youth-oriented women’s fashion market. While it might not be a surprise, it is perhaps a troubling indication that some of the fallout from a less-than-gangbusters holiday shopping season and an otherwise lousy 2013 might still be on tap.

This is now the third liquidation announcement from a major national brand in the last five months: Loehmann’s filed for bankruptcy in December and began liquidating in January, Dots did likewise in March, and now Coldwater Creek is following suit. It’s not uncommon for brands to file for bankruptcy protection, but major national brands moving to liquidation is rare. Each of these chains was searching for a buyer, and one never showed up.

The big question to me is whether this is a coincidence or a sign of deeper retail issues? Are these the inevitable casualties of a competitive women’s apparel segment? I lean toward the latter, and here’s why. If you look at the commonalities between those three brands, what strikes me is that, while they are all women’s apparel retailers, they operate in quite different niches and across a wide range of price points. Dots was very price sensitive, Loehmann’s was better quality at a fair price, and Coldwater Creek is higher quality at a higher price point. The only one of those three that really surprised me with the bankruptcy/liquidation announcement was Loehmann’s — I thought they were fairly competitive in their space (with brands like TJ Maxx, Stein Mart and Ross). Coldwater Creek is really more like Talbots, which, not coincidentally, has also struggled for much of the same demographic and stylistic reasons. The problem with appealing to a more mature woman is that the more mature customers are not the one spending the money these days.

The upshot is, that while I’m not necessarily convinced we’ve seen the end of the fallout from a sluggish 2013, I think these particular liquidations are largely the result of an evolving and highly competitive women’s apparel marketplace, rather than broader retail and economic issues. The emergence of fast fashion chains like H&M and Uniqlo that have been doing so well is certainly not helping brands that were barely managing to hang on.

While more liquidations might not be on tap, I think we are likely to see plenty of store closings in 2014. Radio Shack has already announced the closing of 1,100 stores, and two big mergers — the Office Max/Office Depot merger and the Albertsons/Safeway union — are going to contribute to a number of new vacancies in markets where site/store redundancies will make closure inevitable. In addition, there simply aren’t a large number of new box concepts, and that scarcity is likely to limit the re-use-ability of some of those spaces. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them reused for a non-retail function such as medical.

An interesting article I read recently on www.al.com reviews the “10 most troubled retailers in 2014”, and that list includes several of the other brands that I see as more likely than not to close some stores and engage in some repositioning in 2014. I’ve talked about some of those brands more than once in this space — Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, JC Penney and Sears — but there were also a couple of names that surprised me somewhat. One of those is American Apparel, which I think has a lot going for it in terms of its ability to appeal to a younger demographic, but is saddled with significant debt. Another name that surprised me was Brookstone, although the more I thought about it, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised, considering the fate of former Brookstone competitor Sharper Image. In both cases, I suspect that, as brands that are more about “want” than “need”, they have been hit a little bit harder than others in the downturn — and I can see how it might be harder and harder for Brookstone to hang on.

I’d love to hear the names that are on your own watch list for 2014. Will the liquidations continue, or will this be the end (for now) of a distressing trend? Share your thoughts below or email me at [email protected] to continue the conversation.


Click here for past columns by Jeff Green.

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