Ups and downs of retail

Bill Christopher
Posted

The business of retail establishments always seems to be in flux as a group whether they sell darn near everything like Wal-Mart or Target to specialty stores like Victoria Secret or Williams Sonoma. Grocery stores are among this mix along with restaurants. As we observe Westminster’s retail mix, it serves as a magnifying glass that highlights the ever evolving trends. Let’s look at some very recent news to confirm this fact.

NEW WHOLE FOODS

It was exciting to read about Whole Foods grocery chain coming to the Bradburn Village development on 120th Avenue a few blocks east of Sheridan Boulevard. That is a much more viable location for a trendy type grocery store with higher unit prices than their current location at 93rd Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard. The demographics are more supportive farther north along 120th Avenue. And let’s remember that the 93rd Avenue site was originally an Alfala’s niche grocery. As you might expect, the 93rd Avenue location will close. It will be interesting to see what if any impact Whole Foods will have on the Sprouts store a few blocks away.

‘HOPPING AROUND’ FACTOR

The “hopping around” practice as demonstrated by Whole Foods is not unique. Retailers always preach “location, location, location.” We have seen it with Michael’s hobby store, King Soopers, Safeway, Best Buy, TJ Maxx, Ross, Macaroni Grill and others. It’s a reflection of changing demographics, new leasing terms/costs and corporate strategies. And then widen your scan to neighboring suburban communities where a retailer leaves one city for another, but doesn’t move very far. Woodley Furniture, Office Max, King Soopers, Safeway and Stickley Furniture are examples.

DODGING THE BULLET

Then let’s talk about the J.C. Penney’s announcement from last week. They will be closing 33 underperforming stores by early May and cut 2,000 jobs. Fortunately for Westminster, the only Colorado store (at least announced) will be in Colorado Springs. As we know, the only resemblance of retail left at the former Westminster Mall site is J.C. Penney’s. For us north area residents, it still is a fairly popular soft goods retailer. With so much uncertainty of redevelopment at the Mall site, I hope Penney’s will stick around.

REMAINING OPPORTUNITIES

Looking to the future, Westminster’s “new” retail will locate in existing shopping centers or at the former Mall site. There isn’t much raw, undeveloped land left for major retail development. Having said that, it behooves the Westminster City Council to work cooperatively with developers and tenants who wish to locate in vacant buildings or property. It is important that incentives be offered that make good business sense (cents) to both parties. The focus for Westminster has clearly changed from encouraging new retail on “virgin” ground to redeveloping on existing built upon land or scraped off sites such as the former Westminster Mall property which are much more difficult to accomplish. Often times, when a major tenant comes to an existing shopping center, modifications need to be made to accommodate the tenant. And it is an opportunity for the City to incentivize the tenant or shopping center owner to update and upgrade the exterior appearance of the center. Thus, the center can realize a more contemporary look which is pleasing to customers, the neighborhood and the motoring public while adding value to the area.

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