Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Update: Carolina Place H&M opening delayed until January

Apparel retailer H&M appears to have jumped the gun with its announcement this week of a December opening date for its Carolina Place location: The company now says the store won't open until January.

A public relations person working for H&M said Monday that the H&M store opening was set for Dec. 12. But on Tuesday, Carolina Place officials said the opening had been pushed back, and H&M now said January 16 is the expected date.

Even though it will come after the peak holiday shopping season, the opening is still likely to draw big crowds of eager shoppers.

The area's first H&M store opened Nov. 14 at Northlake Mall. As my colleague Hillary Trenda reported, hundreds of people waited in line - some for hours - in the cold for the chance to shop.

People shopping at the Northlake store on opening day
No further details on the Carolina Place store's opening were immediately available Monday. But like the Northlake store, shoppers who get in line early should probably expect some free T-shirts and "Fashion Passes" worth tens or even hundreds of dollars.

The Carolina Place H&M is smaller than the Northlake store, at about 17,000 square-feet vs. almost 26,000. There's still no official confirmation yet on the long-rumored SouthPark H&M store (anyone heard anything? Drop me a line).

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Piedmont Music Center closing at Park Road Shopping Center

An independent piano store is closing its doors at Park Road Shopping Center, but the owner of Piedmont Music Center said he hopes to reopen soon in a new location.

Owner Chris Fulk said the store's lease ran out on Oct. 31 and he couldn't come to terms with the shopping center's owners for a new lease. The store, which also has a Winston-Salem location, has been at Park Road Shopping Center for more than 11 years.

"We've not been able to negotiate anything that makes sense for us to stay at Park Road," he said. Like some other local businesses, Fulk said he doesn't think owners EDENS want as many independent businesses - the quirky mix Park Road Shopping Center is known for.

My colleague Eric Frazier wrote a story on this topic in September.

“I don’t know what they plan to put out here,” a small business owner said. "But my guess is it’s going to be a lot of chain stores.”
Other merchants share that belief. They’ve been dreading the possibility of change since 2011, when Porter Byrum donated the shopping center to Wake Forest University, Queens University of Charlotte and Wingate University. He was 91 at the time. The schools quickly sold it to EDENS (then Edens & Avant) for $82 million.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2013/09/20/4328960/small-merchants-lament-rising.html#.UpOYQcRzGSo#storylink=cpy

"When Mr. Byrum owned the shopping center, it was the best situation any tenant could have asked for," Fulk said Monday. "He's  a wonderful gentleman. I lament the fact that he's no longer the owner." Fulk did say he appreciated that Byrum gave millions of dollars to schools as a result of the Park Road Shopping Center sale.

"I think they didn't really want us to stay," Fulk said of EDENS. Park Road Shopping Center was the city's first open-air shopping center when it opened in 1956.

He said he plans to liquidate all of the inventory at the Charlotte store over the coming weeks. He said he's still looking at several other locations to reopen in, and doesn't have another lease yet.

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Men's extra-large clothing store opens in Pineville

A new store called Destination XL is open at the Centrum shopping center in Pineville, offering clothes for men with a 40-inch-or-greater waist.

Called "DXL" for short, the retailer has North Carolina stores in Raleigh and Winston-Salem. The company is in the process of closing its Casual Male XL stores and replacing them with the DXL stores. Here's their description:

"The DXL® store is a new one-stop shop catering to the fashion needs and lifestyles of bigger guys...The DXL store provides a unique shopping experience built just for men with conveniences such as a more spacious environment, including wider aisles and dressing rooms double the size of a standard department store; the store also offers outstanding service, from knowledgeable associates to in-store tailoring to ensure that everything fits perfectly."

The store also carries shoes in sizes 10-16, up to a 4E width.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Walmart workers plan protests for Black Friday

Groups trying to organize Walmart workers say they plan 1,500 protests at Walmart stores across the nation on Black Friday, as they pressure the company to raise wages.

"Workers are calling for an end to illegal retaliation, and for Walmart to publicly commit to improving labor standards, such as providing workers with more full time work and $25,000 a year," the groups said in a press release.

The groups, including Making Change at Walmart and OUR Walmart are pushing the company to raise wages, and have staged walkouts and protests at stores in cities across the country.

There aren't any protests scheduled yet in the Charlotte area, according to a website about the protests listing their locations. So far, the only two protests planned in North Carolina are near Raleigh. But, if the groups reach their goal of 1,500 protests, it seems likely that at least one would be staged in Charlotte.

You can see more information and protest locations here.

Walmart plans to start its Black Friday deals at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The company is softening the pain for its workers by offering them extra pay and a Thanksgiving meal in the stores.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

OSHA to retailers: Be safe on Black Friday, avoid tramplings

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is warning retailers to get their crowd control plans in order in advance of next week's Black Friday shopping rush, in order to avoid workers or shoppers being trampled or otherwise injured.

The OSHA guidelines are an annual feature since Jdimytai Damour, 34, was trampled to death at a Long Island Walmart in 2008 by a mob rushing to get Black Friday deals.

Here are the highlights of OSHA's tips for retailers:

Crowd management plans should, at least, include:
  • On-site trained security personnel or police officers.
  • Barricades or rope lines for pedestrians that do not start right in front of the store's entrance. 
  • The implementation of crowd control measures well in advance of customers arriving at the store.
  • Emergency procedures in place to address potential dangers.
  • Methods for explaining approach and entrance procedures to the arriving public.
  • Not allowing additional customers to enter the store when it reaches its maximum occupancy level.
  • Not blocking or locking exit doors.
The complete OSHA list of tips is here. It includes warnings such as this:
  • Ensure that barricade lines have an adequate number of breaks and turns at regular intervals to reduce the risk of customers pushing from the rear and possibly crushing others, including workers.
  • Prepare an emergency plan that addresses potential dangers facing workers, including overcrowding, crowd crushing, being struck by the crowd, violent acts and fire
Companies have taken steps to minimize danger since the stampede. For example, Walmart lets shoppers into its stores early now, and hands out tickets for deals before they're officially put on sale. That avoids the crush of people gathered outside, desperate to force their way in.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Publix lays out Charlotte plans on website

Publix fans can track the grocer's march into the Charlotte area on Charlotte.Publix.com, a website that will be updated with the opening dates for each of the 11 pending stores.

When all of its new locations are open, Publix will have 13 Charlotte-area supermarkets. The company is also building more locations across North Carolina, including Cary and Asheville. Publix recently opened a Charlotte divisional office on W. Tyvola Road.

In a bid to quickly boost its presence in Charlotte, Publix bought seven BI-LO supermarkets in September. The retailer plans to reopen them in 2014 as Publix stores.

The rest of the grocer's Charlotte-area stores are slated for completion in 2015. Publix has two nearby South Carolina stores open already, one in Fort Mill and one in Indian Land.

Publix's map of its current and upcoming locations.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

CC's opening fourth store uptown

CC's, a locally-owned clothing and accessories store, is opening its fourth Charlotte-area store Tuesday, in the Bank of America Plaza uptown.

The store, at 101 S. Tryon Street, Suite 17, will sell women's apparel, jewelry and accessories, adding another retail option for uptown workers.

Here's CC's description, for those who aren't familiar with the store: "With over 5,000 unique items, at discounts of up to 50% off retail pricing, the boutique retailer is known for offering a wide selection of trendy clothing, upscale costume jewelry and unique accessories at incredible prices."

There are three other CC's locations at Blakeney, Northlake Mall and Carolina Place mall. The store is owned by Laura Cline.

"We are so excited to expand into the uptown area," said Cline, in a statement. "The city is growing and we hope to grow along with it by providing a much needed retail option in the city center."

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Monday, November 18, 2013

H&M coming to SouthPark?

It's H&M rumor redux: Workers at SouthPark, the area's largest mall, are saying H&M is planning a third Charlotte store there.

This isn't the first time a SouthPark H&M has been rumored. But I've heard this from two different people now. And at Hallmark, one of the stores H&M would be replacing, an employee said that management has told her the store will close in the coming months to make way for an H&M.

The new H&M would be located near Macy's, and would replace some of the existing stores in that wing. It would be the second big new store for the Macy's wing: An American Girl store is also slated to open there in fall 2014.

Given that this rumor has some legs, I asked SouthPark mall general manager Randy Thomas whether shoppers should expect an H&M at the mall anytime soon. Thomas referred the question to Brave Public Relations, which handles PR for mall owner Simon Property Group. "Please reach out to H&M to confirm this," replied spokeswoman Carly Dennis.

H&M spokeswoman Nichole Christie didn't return a message about whether H&M is planning a store at SouthPark.

A SouthPark store would be H&M's third in the Charlotte area, following stores at Northlake Mall and Pineville's Carolina Place mall. The Northlake store opened last week, drawing hundreds of die-hard fans, and the Pineville store opens next month.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

RiverGate shopping center to expand

Childress Klein Properties said this week they are working on an expansion to Steele Creek's RiverGate shopping center that will add several big retailers to the shopping complex.

The 150,000-square foot expansion will open in late summer next year. The anchor tenants include HomeGoods, Michaels, and Ulta Beauty. The expansion is on 22 acres adjacent to RiverGate, and will be called the Shops at RiverGate South.

Childress Klein is the original developer of RiverGate, a 600,000-square foot shopping center that opened in 2006.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Concord Mills, SouthPark to open on Thanksgiving

The Charlotte region's two biggest shopping malls will open on Thanksgiving Day, joining the flood of retailers rushing to snap up shopper's dollars earlier than ever this year.

SouthPark and Concord Mills are both opening at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving, and staying open all night and through Black Friday.

"Heading to Concord Mills with family and friends is the perfect way to wrap up a holiday about gratitude and togetherness," said Holly Roberson, director of marketing and business development at Concord Mills, in a statement.

"Many families enjoy entertainment traditions around Thanksgiving, whether it's sharing meals, going shopping, seeing a movie or watching a game together," she said. "We are excited to meet our customers’ different schedules and needs."

Both malls are owned by Simon Property Group, the largest shopping mall operator in the U.S. Their earlier opening times replace midnight and Friday morning openings in years past.

At SouthPark, the first 100 people to register their email addresses at the mall's guest services counter will receive a "VIP gift bag." And "strolling carolers" will roam the mall, singing between 8 p.m. and midnight on Thanksgiving.

At Concord Mills, the mall is a little more vague about what kind of specials early shoppers will enjoy. "Everyone can come walk off those Thanksgiving calories," the mall notes in its press release.

The region's malls likely won't have much of a choice about when to open this year, since some of their biggest anchors like Belk and Macy's are opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

How are Charlotte's holiday shoppers special?

We use smart phones more than the national average, have higher participation in loyalty programs and a greater focus on clothing: Those are some of the key findings in a Deloitte report on what to expect from Charlotte's holiday shoppers this year.

For the first time this year, Deloitte has broken out its shopper data specifically for the Charlotte region, instead of just the Southeast as a whole. And some of the findings were unexpected. For example, 70 percent of Charlotte-area residents have a smart phone. That's above the national average of 61 percent. And most of those people plan to use their smart phone to shop.

"I think a lot of times being southern based you don't get a lot of credit for use of technology as you would in Silicon Valley," said Rod Sides, Charlotte-based retail and distribution practice lead for Deloitte. He credits shifting demographics and a relatively young population for the high smart phone rate.

The consulting company surveyed 505 Charlotte-area consumers for its report. Deloitte is forecasting a 4.5 percent increase in sales this holiday season compared to last year.

Here are some more details from Deloitte's findings:

  • Charlotte shoppers ranked clothing as their top gift item, and Charlotte customers were 9 percentage points more likely to say they plan to buy clothing as a gift than consumers elsewhere. Nationwide, clothing was down 9 percent as a gift item in the Deloitte survey. "Seeing that be such a regional difference is important" for retailers to know, Sides said.
  • Twice as many Charlotteans - 34 percent - are enrolled in three or more retailer loyalty programs than the national average. "I think the Southern consumer is looking for that kind of connection," sides said.
  • In Charlotte, 44 percent of consumers own a tablet device, higher than the 38 percent national average. Three quarters of tablet owners said they plan to use their tablet for holiday shopping.
  • Charlotte consumers said they plan to buy an average of 16 gifts, above the national average of 13 gifts. "The Charlotte consumer is pretty generous," said Sides.
And here's Sides' take on the movement towards earlier Thanksgiving day openings for so-called "Black Friday" sales.

"I think they'll end up cannibalizing" sales from later in the season, he said. "You're just moving demand up in the day.

"I think at some point there will be a little backlash against the attack on Thanksgiving," he said.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Toys 'R' Us, Walmart, Target to open earlier on Thanksgiving

With rival stores setting up for 8 p.m. Thanksgiving openings, Toys 'R' Us, Walmart and Target have all upped the ante by pushing their own Thanksgiving openings even earlier.

Toys 'R' Us will open at 5 p.m., three hours earlier than last year. Target bumped its opening up by one hour, to 8 p.m. And Walmart is going to start its Black Friday sales at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving, two hours earlier than last year.

Remember, just three years ago, Black Friday started on Friday.

In press releases, retailers praised their earlier opening times.

“For both our guests and team members, Black Friday is an exciting event that officially marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season. By offering advance access to deals at Target.com and opening our stores earlier, we are making it easier for guests to build a Black Friday ritual that works for them,” said Kathee Tesija, executive vice president.

“At Toys“R”Us, we understand the incredible excitement that surrounds the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season, and the anticipation of value shoppers – marker in hand – as they scour our Black Friday circular, noting the deals they plan to seek out at Toys“R”Us,” said Peter Reiner, Toys 'R' Us senior vice president of marketing.

"We’re excited to give our customers an incredible Black Friday with shopping hours that will allow them to take advantage of great prices on Thanksgiving night and all weekend long," said Walmart president Bill Simon.

Here are Thanksgiving Day opening times for other major retailers announced so far:

  • Best Buy: 6 p.m.
  • Kohl's: 8 p.m.
  • Belk: 8 p.m.
  • Kmart: 6 a.m.
  • Sears: 8 p.m.
  • Macy's: 8 p.m.
  • J.C. Penney: 8 p.m.
  • Old Navy: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., closed for three hours, open again at 7 p.m.

Monday, November 11, 2013

David Yurman boutique opening in SouthPark

A David Yurman boutique is scheduled to open Nov. 25 at SouthPark mall.

The 2,000-square-foot store will carry a full line of David Yurman goods, including jewelry, rings and watches.

The store has "classically modern architecture," the company said. "Every element of the interior thoughtfully reflects the brand's luxurious yet relaxed aesthetic," the company said.

Building permits show the company spent about $160,000 on the location.

"We’re thrilled to be able to bring our signature luxury retail experience to Charlotte," said David Yurman president Carol Pennelli, in a statement. "We have an incredible partner in SouthPark."

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Saturday, November 9, 2013

Belk to open on Thanksgiving Day

Charlotte-based Belk, Inc., has jumped on the early Black Friday bandwagon, announcing its stores will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day for the first time this year.

Belk joins Macy's, J.C. Penney, Kohl's and other retailers who have moved their opening times to Thanksgiving itself this year. The 8 p.m. Thursday opening is Belk's earliest ever for Black Friday (for comparison, in past years Belk opened at 3 a.m. on Black Friday).

Toys 'R' Us, Target, Walmart, Sears and Kmart already started opening on Thanksgiving in the last two years, hoping to lure customers to finish their Black Friday shopping before competitors opened.

"Thanksgiving is a holiday centered around good food, family and friends," said Jon Pollack, Belk executive vice president, in a statement. "Over the years that tradition has evolved into one that includes shopping and other activities that families enjoy together outside of the home. It's in response to that trend that we open our doors to customers at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night for their shopping convenience."

Retailers are scrambling to attract shoppers this year, with the late date Thanksgiving falls on slicing six days off the traditional holiday shopping time. And the still-groggy economy, the government shutdown and anxiety over new healthcare laws certainly aren't helping improve consumers' moods.

The slew of early store openings announced this year likely mean that Black Friday will start on Thursday night for the foreseeable future. What do you think? Will you join the early crowds? Below is a list of Belk's doorbuster early deals.

"The first 250 customers at each store at the 8 p.m. opening on Thanksgiving will receive a free Belk gift card with a value ranging from$5 to $1,000, and with a guaranteed $1,000 gift card winner in each of the company's 301 stores.
  • $19.99 ND New Directions sweaters
  • $39.99 ND New Directions 5-piece luggage set
  • $19.99 Rampage boots
  • $99.99 Keurig Elite single serve brewer (plus $20 Belk gift card by mail-in rebate)
  • $19.99 iLive portable Bluetooth music player
  • $24.99 Sharper Image camera binoculars
  • 40 – 60% off men's and women's casual and athletic shoes
  • 50 – 70% off men's and women's watches
  • 50% off handbags
  • 55 – 75% off Belk and Co. Fine Jewelers jewelry
  • 60% off kids' dresswear and sportswear
  • 55 – 65% off women's favorite brand better sportswear
  • 50 – 65% off women's designer brands
  • 45 – 60% off kids' toys, games and more
  • 35 – 70% off luggage, throws, towels and more
  • 50 – 70% off kitchen electrics, cookware and bakeware"

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cottage Chic celebrates 10 years on East Blvd.

Cottage Chic, the boutique, gift and accessory store on East Boulevard, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend.

Giveaways and promotions are planned to celebrate the event Friday and Saturday. A complete list is available online, but here's a quick summary:

In a retail world where some independent stores don't last 10 months, 10 years is indeed a milestone. Still, time flies when you're having fun (and selling stuff). As Scoop Charlotte puts it: "Oh my goodness, is it possible we’ve been enjoying Chic Goodness for TEN YEARS now?"

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Providence and Queens Harris Teeter to open Nov. 20

Harris Teeter plans to open its new, expanded grocery store at Queens and Providence Roads on Nov. 20, two years after the company first announced plans to demolish and replace the old Harris Teeter Express at that location.

The two-story, 42,000-square-foot Harris Teeter will be one of the larger grocery stores in the area. Its design mirrors many of the houses and buildings in the neighborhood nearby. As one of the company's architects put it in a statement, "The building reflects the sophistication of the neighborhood fused with the excitement of shopping in a dynamic environment featuring food.”

The building features a Starbucks, an outdoor patio and expanded prepared food and produce sections. Building permits show Harris Teeter spent more than $9.1 million on the new store.

Here's the full text of what Harris Teeter had to say about its new store:
The Company’s goal through this process was to create a new store that would offer its loyal customers the level of shopping experience offered in other locations, while at the same time improving the quality and appearance of the existing shopping center. According to Richard Bartlett, partner at Bartlett Hartley & Mulkey Architects PA, the inspiration for the store came from surrounding homes first build in the 1920’s.
"Historic details and materials were re-designed with a playful modern touch also utilizing glazed terra cotta roofs form the same company who supplied the area originally,” said Bartlett. “Interiors are reminiscent of grand foyers in neighborhood homes with paneled walls and oil bronze accents throughout. The building reflects the sophistication of the neighborhood fused with the excitement of shopping in a dynamic environment featuring food.”

The store will be open daily from 6 am to 11 pm (no 24-hour Teeter, for those who were hoping).

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Savory Spice opening SouthPark pop-up store

A spice store is opening a temporary shop at SouthPark mall for the holiday season, offering pungent stocking-stuffers starting at $22.

Savory Spice Shop in South End, owned by Amy and Scott McCabe, is opening the SouthPark store starting Nov. 12. It will be near the Cheesecake Factory and Maggiano's.

The owners say the shop will carry 40 gift packs, and more than 100 different herbs, spices, seasoning blends and vanilla beans and extracts.

The McCabes' permanent Savory Spice is located in South End's Atherton Mill, on South Boulevard. There are also Savory Spice locations (with different owners) at Huntersville's Birkdale Village and Concord Mills.

Here's their description: The shops are over-flowing with rich, wonderful aromas from around the world as the spices and seasonings are ground and blended weekly to ensure superior quality and freshness. With the help of friendly, knowledgeable spice merchants, customers are encouraged to sample the vast selection of common and exotic spices and have the ability to customize the amount of spice needed for their recipes, starting at as little as a half ounce.