Tuesday, January 31, 2012

J.C. Penney rolls out new logo, prices

J.C. Penney has a new look, a new pricing strategy, a new CEO and a new philosophy - and they're not particularly modest about their expectations.

"J. C. Penney Company, Inc. is taking the first steps on its path to reclaiming its birthright and becoming America’s favorite store," read the opening sentence of a press release Monday about the initiative.  The changes debut on Wednesday.

The company, coming off a string of lackluster sales results, is revamping its approach under the leadership of Ron Johnson. He's the man who brought Apple stores into being, along with former CEO Steve Jobs.

The new JCP logo
Some of the changes are cosmetic, such as the company's new square logo, meant to go with the chain's new  "Fair and Square" approach. Changes to pricing are more substantive. The company is moving away from promotions, coupons and steep, short sales to a simplified, three-color strategy. Red label items will be "everyday" low prices, white labels will indicate month-long discounts, and blue labels will be located on "best price Friday" items.

"Three ways to price our merchandise, and no more," J.C. Penney said, in its press release. 

Johnson is also attempting to de-clutter the stores and make them cleaner-looking. There will be no more tables in aisles, and 70 percent fewer signs. Anything will be accepted for return at any store, J.C. Penney said, and stores will change monthly "to make it fun and fulfilling to shop."

Some analysts have hailed the move, while others say it poses a risk to J.C. Penney: If customers accustomed to sharp two-day sales with eye-popping 70 percent off headlines, will they respond to Red, White, and Blue? 

There are more than 1,100 J.C. Penney stores nationwide. In the Charlotte region, there are five stores, at Carolina Place mall in Pineville, Eastridge Mall in Gastonia, Carolina Mall in Concord, the Rock Hill Galleria and Monroe Crossing. 

So, what do you think? Will bringing in an ex-Apple guru, cleaning up the stores and simplifying the prices lure you to J.C. Penney?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Will 2012 be the year H&M opens in Charlotte?

H&M, the fast-fashion retailer with a fervent fan base, posted its full-year earnings late last week, and said it plans to open a total of 275 new stores across the world this year.

The company has a total of about 2,500 stores, two of which are in North Carolina. The first is in Raleigh, while a second store in Winston-Salem opened late last year.

Charlotte has yet to have an H&M opening, however. The Stockholm-based store has reportedly inquired about a local location in the past, but hasn't found the right fit.

In its earnings report, H&M said it plans to open the greatest number of new stores this year in China, the U.S. and the United Kingdom. H&M will also open its first stores in Bulgaria, Latvia, Malaysia, Thailand and Mexico (no word about Charlotte in the list of new markets).

The Facebook group "Bring H&M to Charlotte" is still drawing fresh posts, proving that hope never dies. Charlotte had to wait years for its first Whole Foods, as they spread across the state, but that store will open in the SouthPark area this year. So with 275 new H&M stores being built this year, do you think one of them will be in Charlotte?

Friday, January 27, 2012

New boutique opening in Metropolitan

Lipp Boutique will open Sunday afternoon at the Metropolitan in midtown Charlotte, offering a selection of designer apparel and accessories for women.

The store is the creation of Shital Vaghasiya, who moved to Charlotte from Chicago about three years ago with her husband.

"The boutique will carry women’s clothing and accessories by a variety of designers. I wanted to bring fabulous, cutting-edge fashion to Charlotte," said Vaghasiya, in a statement. "I hand-picked what I think is a great mix of up-and-coming designers as well as more established designer lines."

Lipp will carry clothing, jewelry, makeup, purses and shoes. Labels will include Paige, Hudson, Cotton Citizen, BCBG Max  Azria, French Connection, Michael Kors, Young, Fabulous & Broke, among others. The hours will be 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. The store is opening at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29.

The store isn't Vaghasiya's first foray into business. She previously owned a string of Jimmy Johns restaurants in Chicago, which she sold when she moved to Charlotte. Vaghasiya said she plans to open a second Charlotte location for Lipp in the future.

Lipp's Twitter account is here, and Facebook is here.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Blockbuster on East Boulevard closing

So, the signs have been up for a little while now, but I finally have time to post a quick note about this: The Blockbuster store at East Boulevard and Kenilworth Avenue is closing in a few weeks.

The store is selling off its inventory, and an employee says its last day of business will be Feb. 19th. Blockbuster is chopping hundreds of locations, since the chain declared bankruptcy and was bought for $320 million by satellite TV provider Dish Network.

The chain is trying to promote its Redbox-like rentals, a Netflix-like mail rental system, and on-demand streaming video to compensate for the decline in rentals from retail locations.

Blockbuster's closing is just one of several local retail changes underway on that stretch of East Boulevard. The Harris Teeter in Kenilworth Commons is in the midst of a major renovation and addition. And two new stores on East Boulevard across from the Blockbuster are now open as well: Modern Lighting and men's salon Shear Excellence.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wal-Mart on Independence Blvd. opens today

The new Wal-Mart on East Independence Boulevard opened today with a 7:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony that caps years of construction and brings a big retailer back to a largely empty stretch of expressway.

The 148,500 square-foot store is newly built, on the site of the former Amity Gardens Shopping Center, and will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight daily. The store will have a Subway restaurant, a portrait studio and Walmart Money Center, in addition to the merchandise and grocery departments. 

Wal-Mart says it will employ about 300 associates, and about 85 of those are filling new positions (the remainder are presumably transfers from the old Eastway Drive store). The average wage for a Wal-Mart associate in North Carolina is $12.39 an hour, Wal-Mart says.

The new store has a number of green features, Wal-Mart says, such as recycled cement in the flooring and skylights and LED bulbs to cut down on lighting energy.

“The layout of the store is easy to navigate, which will save our customers time as they shop for everyday necessities,” said store manager Rodney Hatley, in a statement.

And though the store will bring some life back to a largely-vacated portion of Independence Boulevard, the store move will leave another empty box in east Charlotte, at the retailer's former location on Eastway Drive, near Central Avenue. That's just a little bit more than 1 1/2 miles from shuttered Eastland Mall. No word yet on what's going in that space.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New vintage shop pays tribute to the performing arts

The musical career of Judith Beverly-Craycraft (J.B. to those who know her) took her many places. But along the way, as she played principal viola in Richmond's symphony and played in Broadway productions, she accumulated a lot of cool, vintage clothes and accessories.

"When we moved from Richmond to Charlotte in the summer of 2000, we moved with like a dozen wardrobe boxes full of costumes and vintage clothing I'd been collecting for years," said J.B. "It had to go somewhere."

Many of those goods - an eclectic mix of 1950s prom dresses, Vietnam-era officers' military uniforms, Victorian-era "mustache cups" (specially designed cups for men with handlebar mustaches), antique straight razors and cigarette cases, 1920s flapper dresses, top hats, jewelry - are on sale now at J.B.'s new store, Backstage, at 2005 Central Ave.

"It's kind of a tribute to all performing arts - music, theater, dance," she said.

J.B. started selling some of her wares at A Hidden Treasure, a store in Monroe selling collectibles and antiques. Her music room and garage were still full of stuff, however. When she started playing with the Asheville Symphony about 3 1/2 years ago, her husband had a suggestion. "You go to Asheville two or three times a month, load up the car and get some of this stuff out of here," he told her.

So J.B. started selling wholesale to vintage shops in Asheville, and eventually met a shop owner and became her business partner. The store was doing well, J.B. said, until the owner sold the building to a developer and asked the tenants to leave in 30 days.

"I was very upset, needless to say," said J.B. But driving on Central Avenue the day after Thanksgiving, she saw a for lease sign in a storefront, and decided to take a plunge. "I called that number, and that very day he let us move right in," said J.B. She spent time redoing the floors, repainting the concrete outside and sprucing up the shop, and had Backstage's grand opening on New Year's day.

In addition to running the shop, J.B. is a "regular extra" in four orchestras, including the Charlotte Symphony. She loves music, but the schedule of a full-time performer - rehearsals daily at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., loading up the bus at 7 a.m. and driving to performances all the time -  got to be taxing, J.B. said. Now, she plays in big symphony productions and fills in for musicians who call in sick.

Backstage is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 or 6ish ("If somebody's in there, we won't kick them out," she said).

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Monday, January 23, 2012

FROCK Shop lounge to open in Plaza-Midwood

A new boutique space featuring a mix of vintage and re-sale apparel and accessories is set to open Saturday, Feb. 4, in the Plaza-Midwood area.

The FROCK Shop plans to open a STYLE Lounge at 1200 Central Avenue, with a grand opening celebration planned from noon to 8 p.m. FROCK Shop, which launched in 2010, will still do trunk shows around the area.

The STYLE lounge location is in MoNA, the Museum of Neighborhood Art. The new shop will have a rooftop patio in the spring, along with wine and chocolate. The FROCK Shop also refurbishes and re-sells vintage goods under its own "Revival" label.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Second Roosters men's salon to open in Charlotte

A second Roosters Men's Grooming Center is set to open Monday, Jan. 30, on Providence Road in the Rea Village Shopping Center.

The franchise store is owned by Charlotte residents Ed and Stacey Sedlacek. There are some 40 Roosters nationwide, and the other Charlotte location is in Ballantyne.

"When we were looking for a franchise opportunity, Roosters’ model of providing upscale hair care services for men really appealed to us,” said Ed Sedlacek, in a statement.  “It’s a population that has been underserved in the hair industry.”

Roosters features upscale barbershop and salon options for men, such as a 7-step shave with hot steam towels, deep cleansing facial massage and hand and foot detailing.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Grand opening for Savory Spice in South End

Savory Spice, a store featuring hundreds of fresh-ground spices, herbs and extracts, has its official grand opening scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21.

The Colorado-based franchise has been open in its Atherton Mill location since late November. Owners Amy and Scott MacCabe have scheduled a variety of events to mark the grand opening.

Starting at 9 a.m., the first 100 customers will receive a goodie bag of free spices. There will be a demonstration of cooking with curry from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and spice cabinet organization tips and tricks from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. There will also be a chili bar, jalapeno cornbread, iced chai and desserts (corrected, although iced chai would be nice in the desert) and pastries.

The store will also be offering an exchange program, where customers can bring in a competitor's containers of spice and exchange them for the Savory Spice brand for $1.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hickory Lowes reopens with expanded assortment

A Lowes Foods grocery store in Hickory is reopening Wednesday, Jan. 18, as a Lowes FreshSmart store, with a greater emphasis on upscale groceries.

The 45,543-square-foot renovated store will feature more beers, wines, cheeses and other types of gourmet selections, Lowes Foods says. There will also be more types of organic produce, and pre-cut, packaged vegetables at the store on 29th Street, NE. The deli will now feature a salad bar, and the seafood department has been expanded as well.

There will be grand opening events Wednesday morning, including a prize wheel and product samples.

Lowes Foods is owned by Alex Lee, Inc. The privately-held company is based in Hickory, and operates 108 Lowes Foods supermarkets in the Carolinas and Virginia. The company also operates Merchants Distributors, Inc., a wholesale grocery distributor, and Institution Food House, Inc., a food service distributor.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

New Cato store opening in Charlotte

A new Cato store is set to open Wednesday, Jan. 25, in the University City area.

The discount women's apparel store is in the University Pointe Shopping Center, at 5700 University Pointe Boulevard. The store will carry sizes 6 to 26 and girls' sizes 7 to 16, with new styles delivered weekly, Cato says.

Charlotte-based Cato Corp. chain operates more than 1,200 stores, under its main Cato brand, It's Fashion, and Versona, a new line of accessory stores recently launched at the Arboretum shopping center in south Charlotte. The company has four Cato stores in Charlotte, and 102 throughout North Carolina.

Cato has been struggling to find its footing lately, suffering from a bit of a recession hangover. In November, the company reported sales through Oct. 29, 2011 were up slightly, from $689 million in 2010 last year to $699 in 2011. But sales at stores open a year or more fell 1 percent, a trend that picked up speed in the third quarter, as they fell 3 percent. 

Friday, January 13, 2012

Independence Wal-Mart opening end of month

The new Wal-Mart Supercenter on Independence Boulevard is set to open either January 25 or 26. Either way, it will be a day after the older, nearby Wal-Mart Supercenter on Eastway Drive closes.

Wal-Mart hasn't officially posted the opening date for the new store on their store openings page, but an employee at the store confirmed those dates to a colleague of mine. The store on Independence Boulevard, located just before Albemarle Road, is nearly complete, as you can see if you drive past.

The old Supercenter on Eastway Drive is about a mile and a half from the Independence Boulevard location. I'll let you know when Wal-Mart corporate officially confirms the store's opening date.

Fun fact: If you go to Wal-Mart's store locator page and look for the store on Eastway Drive, you'll notice that while it still lists the address as 3304 Eastway Drive, the map marker is already on the store's new location, at East Independence Boulevard and Pierson Drive.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Food Lion to close 113 stores

Delhaize, the Belgian supermarket transnational that owns Food Lion, Bottom Dollar, Bloom and other brands, said late Wednesday that it plans to close 113 underperforming Food Lion stores in the U.S.

No Food Lions in Charlotte are on the chopping block, but a Food Lion at 825 Crossroad Plaza in Fort Mill will be closed. In all, the Food Lion closures represent about 10 percent of the Salisbury-based chain's total store count.

Also, six Bottom Dollar grocery stores, including the one in Mooresville, will be closed. Another 22 Bottom Dollars in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina will be converted to Food Lions. The company did say it plans to add hundreds of Bottom Dollar stores in the coming years, as consumers look to deep discount store formats for savings.

The 42 remaining Bloom stores will be converted into Food Lions and seven will be closed, ending an experiment with a new supermarket brand that began in North Carolina. The company already converted local Blooms into Food Lion stores months ago. At the time, Delhaize said it wanted to focus on growing the Bloom banner around Washington, D.C.

Delhaize America is closing a total of 126 stores across all of its brands, and 4,900 workers will lose their jobs. The store closures will be complete within 30 days, the company said.

"Today’s actions will continue to solidify our U.S. operations and enable our company to focus on our successful brand strategy repositioning at Food Lion and the expansion of Bottom Dollar Food in new markets,” said Delhaize America CEO Ron Hodge, in a statement.  “While these were difficult decisions given the impact on our associates, customers and communities, we believe these actions will enable us to better serve our customers in our markets with high density, while positioning the company for future growth.”

The move represents a complete pull-out from Florida for Salisbury-based Food Lion; the retailer will no longer operate any stores in the state. Delhaize is also closing a distribution center in Tennessee.

There will be 1,127 Food Lions once the closings and store conversions are complete. Food Lion said the move will allow the company to focus one areas where Food Lion already has a lot of stores or a large share of the market.

A complete list of stores affected is available here. You can read the company's press release here.

Delhaize also reported its 2011 earnings. Revenue from all U.S. stores was up a modest 2.2 percent, reaching $19.2 billion. Sales at stores open a year or more, an important measure of a retailer's health, grew only 0.7 percent in the U.S. for the full year. In the fourth quarter, however, sales at stores in the U.S. open a year or more fell by 0.4 percent.

The store closings will reduce Delhaize's total number of stores by 4.3 percent. Interestingly, Delhaize said it expects the closings will cost it $650 million in revenues, but increase operating profit by 35 to 40 million euros (the Belgian company records its profits in the European currency).

Statesville to get new PetSmart and Michaels

Two new shops, PetSmart and Michaels Stores, are set for a new shopping center being built in Statesville, according to local media.

The stores, each about 14,000 square feet, will be in the Turnersburg Highway Statesville Retail Center. The retail development will also feature an apparel store, an office supply store, and other retailers.

Read the full story at the Statesville Record & Landmark here. Thanks to my colleague Steve Byers for the heads-up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Perry's at SouthPark jewelry shop will relocate in February

Perry's at SouthPark is moving from its mall location into a new store across the street.

According a flier given to customers, Perry's new location will be in the Gold Building, which is across Morrison Boulevard from SouthPark mall.

The new store will feature appraisals and selling of gold jewelry and other estate pieces, as well as shopping. Perry's will be out of its SouthPark store soon, and the new store will open in February.

There's no word yet from the mall on what will replace Perry's. Thanks to my colleague June Lancaster for the heads up.

Here's a map of Perry's new digs, at 6525 Morrison Boulevard.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Publix is coming...

This probably isn't news if you live nearby, and there have been rumblings about it for some time, but it will still probably raise some eyebrows in Charlotte: Publix is opening two supermarkets later this year near Charlotte.

They're not listed with opening dates on the chain's website. But the signage is up, and "late 2012" is being publicly proclaimed as Publix's time frame.

Both stores will be in South Carolina, one in York County and one in Lancaster County. As the Charlotte Business Journal previously reported, the Lancaster County store is set for the new Cross Creek shopping center.

Here's a picture from the York County site, at Gold Hill and Pleasant roads. (Thanks to my colleague Mark Price for the photo and the heads-up).

The stores will be Publix's furthest foray north. As you can see in this store locator, their closest stores to Charlotte and North Carolina previously were in Columbia, S.C. and Greenville, S.C. Publix hasn't said yet whether it will actually push into N.C., where it currently has no stores.

Compared to Harris Teeter, the locally-owned higher-end general grocery store, Publix is a behemoth. Harris Teeter operates 204 stores, while Publix has more than 1,000.

Publix stock isn't publicly traded, being held by employees, directors and other company insiders, but Publix reports its financial results regularly. For the first nine months of its fiscal 2011, Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix reported sales of $19.7 billion and profits of $1.1 billion. Harris Teeter, for its full fiscal 2011, reported sales of $4.3 billion and profits of $91. million.

Do you think Publix will cross the state line and jump directly on to Teeter's home turf? And do you think the Charlotte region's upscale grocery market can sustain Publix, other new entrant Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Earthfare and more?

UPDATE - for more information on the Cross Creek Publix store in Lancaster County, check out the developer's website.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New boutique in Cornelius has a higher purpose

Linda Williams took a leap of faith moving from New York to Cornelius to pursue her dream of opening a boutique, and she's taking another with her plans to donate 10 percent of revenue to charity.

Her new shop, Lemuel, is set to open Monday, Jan. 9, at 19826 North Cove Road, Suite A, in Cornelius. Williams said she's spent the past three months repainting and refurbishing the store with her fiance's help, doing everything themselves except installing a light fixture.

"No contractors," said Williams, a former special education teacher in Yonkers. "A real labor of love."

Williams said she always loved clothes, and as a young girl in the Bronx she would take the subway to visit stores in Manhattan. "I would take the train to Saks and Fifth Avenue," she said. She never had much desire to make clothes herself, however. "I sewed up my finger one time when I was 12, and that was it," she says with a laugh.

She became a teacher and worked with at-risk kids in drug prevention programs, Williams said. People would sometimes encourage her to pursue her dream of opening a boutique, but after her mom died in 1995, "I put it off again."

But over the past few years, several people close to Williams died. "Cancer just took them all out of here," she said. Some weren't even old. She had a realization: "It really became very paramount to do this now."

Her sister had lived in Durham, and often encouraged Williams to join her there. But the Charlotte region kept coming up in conversations, Williams said, and she decided that was where she was meant to go.

"I came down here at the end of March," Williams said. Her car was "loaded up like the Beverly Hillbillies," and she was intent on opening a boutique.

After searching at various different shopping centers, she decided on one in Cornelius. Following her renovations, Williams was almost ready to open, displaying her inventory of products from Fendi and Valentino. She just had to decide how much of her revenue she was going to give away: 10 percent.

"That's how God put it in my heart," Williams said. "Originally, I though 5 percent. Then, I went, 10 percent? Yeah, 10 percent. This is my relationship with God, to trust and serve him. The way to serve him is to help others."

Williams said her donations will go the Red Cross, St. Jude's Children's Hospital, and the Baptist Children's Homes of NC.

Is she nervous about making such a big, revenue-walloping commitment, especially in this economy? "I had to block that out, had to pray," she says. "God has brought me this far."

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

XXI Forever expanding its Concord Mills store

Forever 21 is opening a larger XXI Forever store in Concord Mills this summer.

The 30,000-square-foot store will be four times larger than the current Forever 21 location, mall officials said. It will be located near the AMC movie theater in the mall.

The retailer will sell lines including 21Men, HTG81, Twelve by Twelve and a line targeted at kids ages six to 14.

“The newly expanded XXI Forever will enhance our broad value retail mix and appeal to our contemporary, fashion-forward shoppers looking for the latest trends,” said Ray Soporowski, general manager of Concord Mills, in a statement. An exact date for the opening hasn't been set.

And if you were confused about whether or not they are the same store (as I was at first), here is a pre-entered Google search for you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dollar General to open 625 new stores in 2012

Dollar General, rival to Matthews-based Family Dollar, said Tuesday that it plans to open 625 new stores and add 6,000 jobs this year.

The Tennessee-based Dollar General chain totals 9,800 stores. Both discount chains have been in expansion overdrive since the recession, when more shoppers started flocking to them in order to save money.

Family Dollar and Dollar General are both expanding at a torrid rate, fueled by plenty of cash flowing into their coffers. In fiscal 2011, Family Dollar's sales rose 8.7 percent, to $8.5 billion, with $388 million in profit. In December, Dollar General reported sales were up 11 percent, to $10.6 billion, with $474 million in profit.

Even with both companies repurchasing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of their stock, that's a lot of cash to put to work.

Family Dollar is set to report its first quarter earnings on Thursday afternoon. CEO Howard Levine will likely reveal more details about the company's expansion plans this year during Friday morning's phone call with analysts. The company has previously said it plans to open 450-500 new stores in fiscal 2012.

The company opened its 7,000th store this year, pushed into the California market for the first time and has announced plans to open hundreds of stores each year. And Family Dollar is also in the middle of a plan to renovate all of the existing stores in its chain to improve sales.

In 2012, Dollar General will also be opening stores in California for the first time, as well as a new distribution center in the state. Both Dollar General and Family Dollar are muscling in to 99 Cents Only store territory in the Golden State.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Compare Foods, T.J. Maxx closing on Independence

Two local retailers are closing up shop on Independence Boulevard, as the Compare Foods supermarket and the T.J. Maxx locations are shutting down soon or already shuttered.

Both stores are located in the shopping center at Independence Blvd. and Idlewild Road, on the right if you're driving out of the city on Independence. The area has struggled since Independence became a hybrid expressway, limiting options for motorists to turn off and head into the shopping centers.

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The Compare Foods store at the shopping center is already closed. A Compare Food employee at the supermarket's office said shoppers should go to the retailer's new location at 3600 North Sharon Amity Road instead.

T.J. Maxx will be open until 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14. There is currently a sale underway to clear out the store's inventory, so head over for the final pickings.

In a spot of positive news for the area, the Walmart SuperCenter on Independence looks very nearly ready to open. Fixtures inside the store are visible from the outside, and the building, parking lot and landscaping look finished. No word yet today from Walmart on when it will open, but I'll let you know when I hear from them.

A bigger question than the Walmart's opening date, however, is whether or not the mega-store will help revive this struggling retail corridor.