Nordstrom presence near mall expected
Justine Griffin/Sarasota Herald-Tribune
In what could be a forerunner of major new and more upscale retail to the area, Nordstrom Rack is expected to take over the former Circuit City space across from the planned Mall at University Town Center, nearby tenants say.
If the Seattle-based merchant occupies the Benderson Development Co. plaza just north of University Parkway, it also could signal Nordstrom’s interest in opening a larger department store in the regional mall slated to debut in October 2014.
“The company has opened Rack and traditional Nordstrom locations in the same market before, and both have done well,” said Jeff Green, who heads a Phoenix-based retail consulting company.
“Nordstrom sees themselves as a destination, and having both stores is a way to appeal to customers in a broader way,” Green said. “Value transcends demographics, and even stores like Nordstrom target those shoppers now.”
Neither Nordstrom nor Benderson officials would confirm the Rack plans, but owners and managers from neighboring businesses in the Cooper Creek Boulevard plaza said they had been told by the landlord that the retailer was coming.
Mark Chait, Benderson’s executive director of leasing, said he could neither “confirm or deny” Nordstrom’s interest, saying only that he would “have more information about that space very soon.”
Nordstrom Rack’s presence in the Shoppes at University Center plaza alone could transform the retail landscape in Southwest Florida and usher in a new era of luxury purchasing, analysts say.
Benderson is expanding the 20,000-square-foot space by adding 15,000 square feet. To accommodate that, one wall of the former Circuit City has been demolished.
Typical Nordstrom Rack stores measure about 35,000 square feet and sell merchandise from Nordstrom department stores and Nordstrom.com at up to 60 percent off original marked prices.
Though Nordstrom decided to curtail new full-line development stores at the outset of the Great Recession, the retailer has been aggressively expanding its Nordstrom Rack brand — an outlet brand equivalent to Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off 5th — in recent years.
In downtown Chicago, a multi-story, traditional Nordstrom department store was joined last year by a Rack just blocks away on the city’s “Magnificent Mile” shopping district.
The outlet store’s arrival also might signal a future department store at University Town Center.
Although Nordstrom was among the original tenant mix at the 880,000-square-foot mall, the company pulled back amid the recession as the original plans stalled. The Seattle-based retailer has since declined to say whether it might return to the mall, being co-developed by Benderson and Taubman Centers Inc.
The $315 million mall’s current anchor lineup includes Saks, Macy’s and Dillard’s — with room for a fourth potential department store, designs show.
“The question is less about whether Nordstrom can support both a full-line store and a Rack location in Sarasota, and more about knowing that Nordstrom is building so few full-line stores — is Sarasota important enough to be a market they’re going to want to open a store in?” said Green, the retail analyst.
Nordstrom has opened more than a few Rack stores in Florida markets with the chain’s existing department stores.
In Jacksonville, the company announced this month it will open a Rack by the end of this year near a full-line Nordstrom store slated to open in the St. John’s Town Center in early 2014.
Another Rack store will open in Naples this year, not far from the company’s existing, full-line store at the Waterside Shops.
In all, Nordstrom has plans to open 15 new Rack stores a year, according to documents the company filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. By comparison, many years Nordstrom will open just a single full-line store.
The company operates 117 full-line stores and 95 Rack stores at present, but the number of Rack stores is expected to surpass the full-line total by the end of this year.
In Florida, Nordstrom operates nine department stores and eight Racks presently.
Circuit City abandoned the Shoppes at University Center in 2009, after the company fell into bankruptcy and was forced to liquidate stores across the country.
The site most recently housed a pop-up Spirit Halloween store, in October and November, but the costumes and decorations retailer closed shortly after Halloween.
Other anchors in the 380,000-square-foot Shoppes center include Fit 2 Run, Lee Roy Selmon’s and Bonefish Grill restaurants, Marshall’s, Total Wine, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Jo-Ann Fabrics.
Nearby tenants, who asked not to be identified, said they would be excited to have the space filled, especially by Nordstrom.
“It would be awesome to have a Nordstrom Rack here,” said a manager at the John Dough Bakery, two doors down from the targeted space, who refused to provide her name. “Those stores are so popular, I think it would do really well here.”