Tampa Saks to close in 2 weeks
Justine Griffin/Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Saks Fifth Avenue will close its WestShore Plaza store in Tampa in two weeks, a move that will elevate the importance of the luxury chain’s Sarasota store among Southwest Florida shoppers.
The store closing, on May 4, also means the Sarasota store in Southgate Mall — which will also close to make way for a new full-line, 80,000-square-foot Saks department store at the planned Mall at University Town Center in October 2014 — will be the closest store for Tampa Bay-area shoppers.
WestShore owner Glimcher Realty Trust said Tuesday that Saks will be replaced with a prototype Dick’s Sporting Goods store. Saks’ Westshore store opened in 1998.
Analysts said the move is somewhat surprising.
“Tampa’s International Plaza is the premiere mall of the two, and this is a sign that WestShore is having some trouble competing,” said Jeff Green, head of Phoenix-based retail consulting firm Jeff Green Partners.
“The Saks store there was obviously underperforming compared to Sarasota, but to leave the market completely — which is bigger than Sarasota — is a conundrum to me,” Green said.
Saks chairman and chief executive Steve Sadove said in a statement that the decision to close the store was tied to its financial performance, and that the University Town Center store will “meaningfully” expand the chain’s presence in Southwest Florida.
“This planned closing is in line with our strategy of using our resources in our most productive Saks Fifth Avenue stores,” Sadove said.
“We regularly assess the productivity, profitability, and potential of each of our stores and may determine that a closing is appropriate from time to time,” he said.
Saks officially announced in mid-March that its Sarasota “resort store” in Westfield Corp.’s Southgate Mall would shutter sometime next year in advance of the opening of University Town Center, which is being developed by Taubman Centers Inc. and Benderson Development Co.
All 105 associates employed at the Tampa store will be offered transfer opportunities to the chain’s other Florida stores.
Excluding Tampa, Saks operates nine full-line department stores in Florida: Sarasota, Miami, Orlando, Fort Myers, Naples, Bal Harbour, Boca Raton, Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens.
It also operates another eight Off-Fifth outlet stores in the state, including in Ellenton.
“Certainly the closing of the Tampa store will transfer some sales to Sarasota, but it won’t be a huge percentage because of the distance,” Green said.
“Sarasota is a key market for Saks, and building a brand new store there when they’re closing another in Tampa proves that,” he added.
The Sarasota Saks Fifth Avenue’s new general manager, Joel Ellzey, spent a little less than a year managing the WestShore store before coming to Sarasota.
Ellzey is expected to lead the department store as it transfers from its 28,000-square-foot space in Southgate to University Town Center.