Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New grill store opening on Tremont Avenue

A new, high-end outdoor cooking store, Charlotte Grill Company, is opening Nov. 1 near the Dilworth and South End areas.

Store owner Randy Utsey has been selling and distributing Big Green Egg cookers for 16 years. He started his company, DJ Distributing Company, in 1985, selling ventilation hoods and other cooking materials to retailers.

In 1996, Utsey was in Atlanta on business when he was introduced to the founder of Big Green Egg, a ceramic, dome-shaped (well, egg-shaped) grill. Utsey was convinced to try one out, then started selling them in Charlotte.

"Every time I went back to Atlanta, I'd load up with Big Green Eggs and bring them back to Charlotte," said Utsey.

The store on Tremont, tucked into the back of an industrial park, is the company's first major foray into the customer-facing retail world. Utsey said he plans to expand the store, learning what to stock and how to sell it to customers.

The Utseys have grills on display and for sale at the store, including Big Green Eggs, Napoleon, and Luxor. They also have spices, charcoal, tongs, and other accessories you might need. Utsey's hope is to expand the store, which is currently somewhere around 1,500 square feet, and move into a more accessible location. The back of the Tremont Ave. store houses the company's warehouse and distribution.

Eventually, Utsey said he hopes to have a business that's dedicated to all aspects of outdoor cooking, and can help customers design and build outdoor kitchen areas.

Randy Utsey and son in the store

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Retail industry seeks to turn out votes

The National Retail Federation has been trying to get voters interested in the upcoming election and business issues from a retail-oriented point of view, with their "Retail Means Votes" campaign.

The non-partisan campaign offers voters information on Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, and where they stand on retail-related issues such as tax reform and health care reform. The website also has information on all of the Senate races, and where each candidate stands on the issues.

"With an election largely centered on the economy and jobs, it’s important to make sure America’s 3.6 million retailers and their employees know what’s at stake for the industry,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay , in a statement.

Although the website and NRF campaign don't specifically endorse any candidates, the issues highlighted offer some insight into retailer's major concerns. The industry group supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, fighting efforts to unionize employees, and lowering corporate tax rates.

Here are six questions the NRF suggests asking of candidates for office:

1. American employers pay the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Do you support efforts to reform the corporate tax code? What rate should corporations pay? Do you support the idea of individual rates being aligned with corporate tax rates?

2. Today’s sales tax system unfairly favors online retailers — who are not required to collect sales tax due on most sales — to the disadvantage of brick-and-mortar merchants. Do you support current Congressional efforts to level the playing field and allow states to collect the taxes they are owed from online purchases?

3. Do you support or oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act? Do you support repealing the employer mandate penalties, which could tax jobs regardless of a retailer’s profitability?

4. Do you believe that there should be an open and transparent process for how much banks and credit cards can charge retailers for processing a credit card payment?

5. The current median timeframe for union organizing elections after a union files a petition is 38 days. Recent changes imposed by the National Labor Relations Board would allow for union organizing elections to be held as little as 14 days after a union files a petition. Do you support these changes? Do you see the creation of micro-unions as presenting challenges to employers and employees, especially for small businesses?

6. What will you do and what policies will you support to help eliminate foreign and domestic tariffs and other trade barriers, particularly on highly-protected consumer products like clothing and shoes?

"These resources will equip retailers and their employees with a firm understanding of retail’s public policy priorities – be it combating micro-unions, fighting for sales tax fairness, or reducing swipe fees – and help put the election into context,” said Shay, in a statement.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Winestore opening third location near Lake Norman

Charlotte-based Winestore is opening its third shop this week, in Cornelius. The store plans to open its doors Thursday, Nov. 1.

The company opened its first retail location in 2006, with its SouthPark store. In 2009, Winestore expanded, opening a second location in the Blakeney shopping center, on Rea Road.

The new store is at the corner of Jetton Road and West Catawba Avenue. "We are very excited to be entering this new market and believe we have the most unique wine retail concept in the Southeast," said Matt Snyder, the company's vice president, via email.

Here's a bit about the thought process behind the store, which positions itself as an easy, non-intimidating place to buy wine: "Usually, it takes quite a bit of knowledge and experience to wade through the choices – and one is always fearful of making the wrong one. We wanted to eliminate that fear and extend the favorable experience on the retail side. We have built our brand value on providing a positive experience for our customers above all else. Winestore is the result of that concept – a contemporary solution to the wine purchasing experience."

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Microsoft pop-up store open at SouthPark

People were waiting in line for a new electronic gadget at SouthPark mall Friday, but they weren't at the Apple store: They were at Microsoft's new pop-up store, waiting to buy the new Surface tablet.

The open kiosk, which could be a prelude to a permanent store in the area, is one of 34 temporary Microsoft stores the computer giant opened Friday for the holidays. The point of the stores is to get new products in customers' hands and generate buzz about them.

Friday, that buzz was about the Surface tablet. In between the Abercrombie & Fitch and Bath & Body Works stores, customers lined up to play with and purchase the Surface, which starts at $499, or $599 for one with the flip-cover keyboard.

The Surface, for now, is only available online and at the Microsoft stores.

Microsoft also released Windows 8 on Friday, and workers were showing customers how to use the new products.

"We want them to come so they can learn whole Windows 8 product," said store manager Maryam Alhammami. "Customer service is the whole thing."

Microsoft will use the temporary store as a launching pad for hot items this holiday season. The company is also planning release events for Halo 4 and the Windows 8 phone, both of which could be big holiday sellers.

Here's a good article in the Wall Street Journal about people lining up for Microsoft products. An excerpt, and some nostalgia Microsoft is doubtless trying to recreate: "In 1995, when PCs were the center of the action in technology, customers lined street corners in major cities around the world hoping to get their hands on Windows 95, one of the first big overhauls of the software that runs on most PCs."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Holiday sales expected to slow in some categories

Toys, video games, electronics: All staples of the holidays, right?

Well, while holiday sales are forecast to rise more than 4 percent this year, they're expected to rise more slowly in the above-mentioned areas, according to a story in Time.

Here's a quick rundown of the categories experts say are likely to see slowing growth this year, and why.

  • Toys: Per capita spending on toys is down to $60, from $85 in 1998, and the trend has been accelerating. Kids are more likely to want electronic gadgets, video games, and other items than a doll or a board game or an action figure, it seems. (Although if you think about it, $60 per capita spending on toys is still kind of a lot).
  • Video games: Well, when we said kids wanted video games, we didn't really mean it. Sales of video games have been declining, and software sales fell 2 percent in the fourth quarter last year, usually a boom time.While the Wii U will likely be a huge hit, X-Box and Playstation haven't had a new console in a while. And maybe kids are more likely to be playing a 99 cent (or free!) game on their phone than a $59 new release on a console.
  • And though there are always plenty of electronics gadgets to buy, some analysts are forecasting a dip in electronics sales. Some people "are approaching high-tech saturation," according to a study from Booz & Co., which seems a bit unlikely if you've seen an Apple store lately. But many cell phones, tablets, flat-screen TVs and other electronic items are also less expensive than they used to be even just a few years ago.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

See's Candies, Microsoft opening holiday stores

See's Candies is opening two temporary stores, one in SouthPark and one at Northlake Mall, in time to lure people with something sweet for the holidays.

Mary See

Both stores will open November 8. The Northlake store will close December 26, the day after Christmas, while the SouthPark store will remain open until April 4, through Valentine's Day and Easter.

See's, headquartered in California, was founded in 1921. In addition to its retail outlets, the company also does a large amount of mail-order business.

"A tradition in the West, See’s has consistently maintained the timeless virtues of quality, caring and friendly service. Made in America, using no added preservatives and only the freshest, highest quality ingredients available, each piece of delicious See’s candy is sure to delight this holiday season," See's said, in a statement.

Also, Microsoft's temporary holiday store is opening Friday, Oct. 26, at SouthPark. The store will sell a "curated collection of the coolest Microsoft products," according to its website. The store will be located on the mall's lower level, Microsoft says, across from the Abercrombie & Fitch store.

Microsoft will likely be emphasizing its new Tablet, Surface, as well as the Windows Phone and Xbox 360.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New ice cream company targeting Charlotte

Sloan's, an ice cream store/toy shop/candy wonderland hybrid based in South Florida, is looking for franchisees to open a Charlotte location.

The company, which currently has four south Florida locations, hopes to open 200 stores in the coming years. They're focusing on the Carolinas, Florida, California, Georgia, New York and New England to start.

Sloan's in Florida

Sloan's hopes to have its first franchised locations up and running by early 2013.

Here's some information about the company, which was founded by chef Sloan Kamenstein 14 years ago: "Sloan himself has designed the complete menu of creative ice cream, candy and sweet treats. These include dozens of innovative flavors such as Tracy’s Scrumptious Pretzel (caramel ice cream with milk chocolate covered salty pretzels and peanut butter swirls), Cookie Monster (made with homemade chocolate chip cookies) and Mom’s Apple Pie (apple pie ice cream with pieces of homemade apple pie). Plus, a collection of homemade cookies, brownies, shakes, smoothies, ice cream sodas, sundaes and all varieties of candies fill out the awe-inspiring options for Sloan’s guests."

If you're interested in bringing some Sloan's franchises to Charlotte, check out some more information here. And let us know how the ice cream tastes.
Sloan's Interior

Monday, October 22, 2012

Queen City Tennis Shop opening next week

A new tennis store, Queen City Tennis Shop, is opening soon in the StoneCrest at Piper Glen shopping center.

The store is planning a soft opening Oct. 29, and a grand opening Nov. 10. Queen City Tennis will sell a wide range of racquets, apparel, and footwear. The store will offer restringing services with 40 different types of string, and tennis accessories such as grips, hats, bags and balls.

The new storefront

Owner Mike Leffke is a lifelong tennis devotee, according to his bio: "A native of Lynchburg, VA, he played Division I tennis at UNC-Ashville, is a 5.0 level player, and has 10 years of teaching experience (as a USPTA P1 Certified Instructor) in the Charlotte area, most recently at Providence Country Club. Leffke’s wife, Maggie, was a Division I tennis player at UNC-Greensboro."

He decided to strike out on his own after teaching to meet growing market demand, Leffke said.

"Growth of the sport in this part of the city is booming, and I feel that it is the ideal time to open a shop to meet the needs of the growing population of tennis players in the Charlotte area. Our goal at QCTS is to offer a full-service tennis shop that is owned and run by a certified instructor with a true passion for the game," said Leffke, in a statement.

The grand opening will include discounts, free stringings with purchase of a new racquet, and a "Racquet Tuning Center" machine to test players' racquet weight, balance, and swing weight.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Heist Brewery grand opening in NoDa

Another local brewery has joined the Charlotte beer scene, and Heist Brewery is holding its official grand opening Friday night in NoDa.

Heist brewer at work
Here's an earlier story by one of my colleagues with some background about the pub's development and owner Kurt Hogan.

Friday's grand opening kicks off at 6 p.m., with live music from The Josh Carter Band and The Dread Nots. The company is giving away $1,700 worth of prizes, including merchandise, gift certificates, and growlers.

The brewpub is offering "twisted American food" along with its lineup of beers. The menu lists items such as Lobster Bisque Test Tubes, Duck Quesadillas, and a Jerk Chicken sandwich. Heist also sells fresh bread at its building, a 6,700-square-foot renovated former mill.

On the beer side, Heist has wide range of beers on tap, including an IPA, an Oatmeal Stout, and an American-style Red Ale. "Using a Johann Albrecht German brewhouse we are going to utilize old world techniques of brewing and infuse them with "Heist" attitude! We believe there are no limits in brewing delicious ales and lagers, but we are going to try and find them," the company says of its brewing process.

The decor is mostly, as you might expect, heist-themed. Wanted posters for classic gangsters such as John Dillinger hang on the walls, and a chandelier made of old copper pipes riddled with bullet holes lights the room when you first walk in.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Halloween spending expected to top $8 billion this year

Halloween is serious business for retailers: Americans are expected to spend some $8 billion on candy, costumes, decorations and other holiday goods.

That estimate is based on a survey of shoppers by the National Retail Federation. The total spending is up from an estimated$6.86 billion last year.

According to the survey, per-person spending among those celebrating Halloween is expected to rise to $79.82, up from $72.31 last year.

The average amount people spend on costumes is expected to rise to $28.65, up from $26.52 in 2011. Consumers are also estimated to spend $23.27 on average for candy, up from $21.05 last year, and $23.56 on decorations, up from $19.79.

And, if you need to look for a place the American consumer could probably afford to cut expenses, 15.1 percent of those surveyed said they plan to dress their pet in costume. Spending on pet costumes in the U.S. is expected to total around $370 million this year.

 Of those surveyed, 71.5 percent said they would celebrate Halloween this year, up from 68.6 last year. The survey has margin of error of plus or minus 1 percent. The survey was conducted by BIGInsight, and covered 9,393 consumers, the NRF said.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

New fast-casual burger concept headed to Charlotte

Burger 21, a new fast-casual burger company, plans to open a franchised location in Charlotte next year, as the restaurant expands into North Carolina.

The burger company is owned by Tampa Bay-based Front Burner Brands, the same company that franchises The Melting Pot Restaurants. Dan Stone, vice president of franchise development of Front Burner Brands, said the restaurant differs from competitors like Five Guys Burgers & Fries by offering less customization and more "chef-inspired" burgers.

"We took a very different approach," said Stone. The menu includes 20 burgers - 10 beef, 10 non-beef, including tuna and black bean burgers - and one rotating burger that changes every month on the 21st.

"We are very popular with females and kids because of the non-beef varieties," said Stone. He said 40 percent of their burgers served are currently non-beef, and 69 percent of their revenue comes from non-beef items, including salads.

There are currently four Burger 21 locations in Tampa and six more under development in Florida, Georgia and New Jersey.

In Charlotte, Burger 21 will be joining other competitors in the so-called "better burger" segment of the market, including Five Guys and Smashburger. That's part of the reason Burger 21 hopes to expand so quickly, adding 20 to 30 new locations next year.

"We want to be in the retail hubs where we'll find a Chipotle or a Panera," said Stone. "Some landlords, once they get a Five Guys or someone like that, they don't want another burger concept. "We don't want to lose our position in markets."

If you're interested in becoming a franchisee, you can check out Burger 21's franchising site here.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cheese shop now open in 7th Street Public Market

A new store is selling handmade cheeses in 7th Street Public Market, and the owner of Orrman's Cheese Shop said she's excited to bring more interesting cheese to Charlotte.

"I just like the taste of cheese," said owner Rachel Klebaur. "I like meeting the cheese makers, and visiting the farms."

Klebaur said she first got into cheese during culinary school, when she worked at Murray's Cheese in New York City. "I just stayed on in Murray's for a few years and learned about cheese" after school, she said. "It's something I really enjoyed, vs. busting the line in a kitchen."

Now, with her own small store, Klebaur is handpicking each cheese, which all come from small farms who use sustainable practices, she said. "It's a very small selection, but nothing's missing from that case," Klebaur said. "They're favorites of mine."

She plans to rotate the selection seasonally. "I really like aged sheep's milk cheeses, and we're getting into that season. In the spring, we look forward to the fresh goat's milk cheeses."

"I really encourage tasting of the cheeses before purchasing," she said. Klebaur said she wants to help people understand where their cheese comes from and how it's made.

And as the number of artisanal cheese makers in the U.S. grows, she said we're developing even more of an American cheese culture. "We don't need to go to Europe for great cheeses," Klebaur said. "They're here, in the U.S. and in the South."

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Harris Teeter's 201Central stores opening Wednesday

Matthews-based Harris Teeter is holding a grand opening for two new specialty stores named 201central on Wednesday, as the grocer works to expand its offerings and stay competitive in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

As we reported last month, the stores are both former Lowes Foods locations that Harris Teeter acquired in a deal earlier this year. The stores are in Huntersville and Wesley Chapel, and will have ribbon cuttings at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Named for store #201 on Central Avenue, one of the original Harris Teeter locations, the stores sell various specialty items, including 3,100 types of wine, 680 varieties of beer, 35 varieties of beer in kegs, cigars, cheeses, and international foods. They'll also carry bulk foods, including coffee, tea, nuts, grains and rice, a humidor, and beer- and wine-making equipment.

Read more here:

Here's some more from the company's announcement, about new services offered at the stores: "These services include event coordination and party rentals, as well as educational classes focused on wine, beer and food pairings. Meeting the demanding needs for convenience, 201central will also provide guests with the ability to explore a wide variety of wines utilizing the WineStation. This try-before-you buy, temperature controlled technology will enable guests to enjoy featured wines by the taste, half and full glass."

The stores give Harris Teeter a platform to experiment with new offerings, such as bulk food. They also give Harris Teeter more differentiation in an upscale market with two new competitors opening in Charlotte this year - Publix and Whole Foods.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Ten Thousand Villages searching for new Charlotte store

Ten Thousand Villages, the fair trade crafts retailer that recently closed in Cotswold, is search for a new Charlotte location, company officials say.

Retail sales manager Dave McClintock said poor sales and vacant storefronts in the Cotswold Village shopping center led to that store's closure. "Bottom line, we were just not getting the sales needed to keep open," said McClintock, via email.

The Rack Room shoes location had been vacant for about a year, and two nearby restaurants recently closed. The store's lease was up in February 2013, McClintock said, and they decided to try to move the store rather than renew.

"Originally, we hoped to find another space this Fall but were not successful," McClintock wrote. He said the retailer, which sells goods produced by local artisans around the world, hopes to open another Charlotte store in 2013.

Note: In my first post about this store, I reported that Ten Thousand Villages wasn't seeking to open another Charlotte store. That was what a store employee had told me, and a call to Ten Thousand Village's PR team seeking clarification wasn't returned. I'm sorry about the mistake.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

7-Eleven selling Charlotte franchises

Months after buying 55 Sam's Mart locations in and around Charlotte, 7-Eleven is converting many of them to franchises and selling them to local owners as 7-Eleven stores.

The retailer said it has sold three of the 55 stores, which reopened as 7-Elevens, to local franchisees. The January deal, for an undisclosed price, brought 7-Eleven back to the Charlotte market 24 years after the  convenience store operator left.

About 5,000 of the company's U.S. stores are operated by franchisees. One of those new franchisees in Charlotte is Bob Powers, who took over the store at 7740 Bruton Smith Boulevard on Oct. 8. Powers plans to buy two more 7-Eleven franchises this year, the company said.

"We expect our inventory of available stores to move quickly," said Doug Doyle, the company's manager in the Charlotte region. The company requires seven weeks of training for franchisees at an existing location, and provides support with functions such as payroll.

If you're interested in becoming a 7-Eleven franchisee, you can sign up for an informational seminar at the Embassy Suites in Concord here. The company is holding monthly meetings.

Bob Powers, courtesy 7-Eleven
And lest you think Slurpees, Big Gulps, and those hot dogs which will forever remind me of late nights in college are cheap, remember this: 7-Eleven has 48,000 stores globally, and generated more than $76 billion worth of sales last year. 7-Eleven said it plans to continue growing through franchises, acquisitions, and a program under which existing businesses can covert to 7-Elevens.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fuzzy Peach fro-yo headed to Charlotte area

A Wilmington-based frozen yogurt company is wading into the area's region's crowded desert marketplace, with three stores near Charlotte and more to come.

The Fuzzy Peach said it has signed agreements to bring franchises to Rock Hill, Fort Mill and Lake Wylie. The self-serve fro-yo company said it also has plans to open two new stores in Shallote and Jacksonville, N.C.

The company was founded by UNC-Wilmington roommates Rocco Quaranto, Wells Struble and Jason Nista. From their About Us: "With business degrees in hand, a couple years in the corporate field and some money saved, the three came together again . The young entrepreneurs opened the doors to The Fuzzy Peach two years after graduation and brought to Wilmington a new sensation in frozen desserts."

The company is now focused on expanding into Raleigh, Fayetteville, Charlotte, Winston Salem and Greensboro, as well as South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Charlotte has seen a slew of new self-serve fro-yo locations open over the past few years. The Fuzzy Peach will be joining a market that includes stores by TCBY, Tasty Yo Menchie's, Freshberry, The Frozen Isle and Pinkberry.

The Fuzzy Peach currently has five locations in and around Wilmington, where my colleague Andrew Dunn, who used to work there (Wilmington, not The Fuzzy Peach) told me they were very popular.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Renovated Carolina Place Belk to reopen, free giftcards

After a $6 million renovation, the Belk at Carolina Place mall is set to fully reopen Wednesday, with gift cards for the first 750 customers in the store.

The store will open to the public at 9:30 a.m., and the gift cards will range from $5 to $500. Belk has been renovating many of its older stores, including the flagship SouthPark store and the Rock Hill Galleria location.
"The newly remodeled store now boasts a 162,000 square foot modern shopping environment. With the store’s renovation, the following brands have been added to its collection of top fashion and home brands: Coach, Vince Camuto, Anne Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors," Belk said of the Carolina Place store, in an email.

The in-store overhauls, which include added square footage, more modern lighting, new floors, more stylish fixtures and rearranged and expanded departments, are part of a $600 million capital spending push by Belk. Upgrades to its behind-the-scenes systems, including more e-commerce option, such as a new tablet app, are also part of the push.

Belk is the largest privately-held mainline department store chain, with more than 300 locations in 16 states. The company posted a $27.4 million profit in its most recent quarter, up almost 10 percent from the same period last year.

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Monday, October 8, 2012

Dutchmans Furniture opens its third store, in Mooresville

Dutchmans Furniture has opened its third store, in the Merinos complex in Mooresville, offering eclectic, custom-made and high-end furniture.

The company also has locations in Highland, N.C. and St. Simons, Georgia. Stephanie Nieuwendijk, a New Zealander raised in Australia, is the owner and designer of much of the furniture.

More from the store's press release: Shoppers who enjoy "classic with a twist" style will like Nieuwendijk's designs for her new label, Bloom. Bloom features repurposed items, including light fixtures made from woks, planters made from tires, and rustic metal tabletops made from tin roofs.

Other offerings at Dutchmans include hand-painted furniture from Steven Shell and upholstery, sofas and chairs from Rowe Furniture and Robin Bruce. 

The Bramble, Bloom and Steven Shell lines are all produced at The Bramble Company's production facility in Indonesia, giving shoppers the ability to customize their purchases by color and style. The furniture is crafted, painted and screen printed all by hand.

Nieuwendijk opened her first store in Highlands in 2000, after coming to America with $450. "Our goal is for people to get real enjoyment from their furniture and to create rooms they love to be in," she said.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

New restaurant for old City Range in Ballantyne

Over the past few weeks, three readers have contacted me to ask if I know what's going into the long-closed City Range restaurant location in Ballantye, off Johnston Road.

There's a lot of construction going on there, but no signs, they told me. So I went to Mecklenburg County's building permits website and pulled up the construction permits for the building (this is pretty easy to search online if you have an address).

The permits show a new restaurant being built, "Vine American Kitchen." According to the building permits, the restaurant is about 7,262 square feet.

The owner, listed as William T. Freeman, is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into upgrading the building. I tried to contact Freeman at a number listed on the permit, but only got a voicemail.

Freeman, it turns out, is the former CEO of McCormick & Schmick's. He's a veteran restaurateur and businessman, who ran Fox Sports Grill before McCormick. Freeman has also worked for ESPN and Robert Redford's Sundance Entertainment (short bio here).

According to Dave Tschirhart, who runs Restaurant Traffic, Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano had looked at the building in January. Tschirhart calls that area "the Bermuda Triangle of restaurants," because concepts seem to have a tough time lasting there. Oak Steakhouse also passed on the building.

UPDATE: Vine is hoping to open on Nov. 19, according to their PR firm, Hensley Fontana.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Ikea to sell only LED lighting

If you're looking for a fluorescent or a halogen light bulb at Ikea in 2016, you'll be out of luck.

"Supporting the LED light revolution, IKEA will be converting its full lighting range to LED by 2016, meaning IKEA will sell only LED bulbs and LED lamps," said the Swedish build-it-yourself retailer, earlier this week. The company phased out plastic bags in 2007 and incandescent bulbs in 2010.

Although LED light fixtures use less energy and last far longer than other light bulbs - nearly 20 years - they're also more expensive. An LED floor lamp, for example, is listed for $99.99 on Ikea's website. A similar, non-LED floor lamp can be had for $19.99.

Ikea said it's committed to reducing the cost of LED lights, and that their lower electricity use saves money too. "IKEA will be selling the LED bulbs at the lowest price on the market, thus making it affordable for the many people," said the company, in a statement. "The total annual cost saving (including purchase price and energy consumption cost) of switching one incandescent 40W bulb to a corresponding LED bulb, is approximately $6.25 (5.3 Euro) on average."

The retailer will also be replacing more than one million light fixtures in its own stores with LEDs. Ikea said replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs saves 50 to 90 percent of energy costs.

What do you think of LED lighting? Have you tried it (I have not. I confess I'm a compact fluorescent light man myself). Here's a summary of a Consumer Reports analysis of LED bulbs: "The best LEDs were as bright as the incandescents they replaced, yet only half were as bright as promised. Consumer Reports found that all LEDs reached full brightness instantly, even at frigid temperatures, providing warm white light that was unaffected by frequently turning them on and off. Energy use matched or exceeded claims."

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Concord Mills adding two new stores

Lids Locker Room and a Men's Wearhouse Outlet are headed to Concord Mills in the next two months.

Lids Locker Room will be located near the Old Navy Outlet. The store will sell headwear, sports apparel, accessories and sporting memorabilia. A spokeswoman said via email that the store is slated to open in late October. (There's also a Lids Locker Room listed at Northlake Mall as "Coming Soon," in a space formerly occupied by Sports Fan Attic).

"You're gonna like the way you look."
The Men's Wearhouse Outlet will open in November, near The Children's Place Outlet. "The new Men’s Warehouse Outlet will offer male shoppers a wide selection of suiting, dress apparel and accessories, as well as tuxedo rentals and tailoring," the Concord Mills spokeswoman said.

Elsewhere in the mall, Justice and Banana Republic are  undergoing major renovations, including changes to their interior space and storefronts. The updates also include fresh paint and updated fixtures.

Concord Mills is one of the two major Simon Property Group-owned malls in the Charlotte area. The other is SouthPark. Concord Mills is 1.3 million square feet, while SouthPark is 1.6 million square feet.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ten Thousand Villages store in Cotswold closes

Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade, non-profit store at Cotswold Village, closed last week. The store's last day of business was Friday. store opened in the Cotswold shopping center in 1997. Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit that works with local artisans in Third World countries to bring their goods here to be sold. The artisans are paid a fair wage, Ten Thousand Villages says, allowing them to increase their standard of living.

Ten Thousand Villages doesn't plan to open another shop in Charlotte, an employee at the store said. The non-profit retailer now has stores in Greenville, S.C. (updated), Montreat, Greensboro, and Asheville.

(Apologies for not getting this up in time to let people know about their store closing sale. I didn't hear about the closing until this weekend.)

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Monday, October 1, 2012

What will retail look like in 2020?

Two consulting groups, PwC and Kantar Retail, have released a report telling retailers what to expect in the next decade, as shopping behavior continues to change.

"Retailing 2020: Winning in a Polarized World" highlights a number of trends that are already underway today, and are expected to continue. Among the report's key points:

  •  By 2020, the retail industry will be in a "post-modern" era. The consultants expect one of the major features of this new era will be the decline of the super center as a major growth-driver (think about Wal-Mart's ongoing experimentation with smaller store formats, and the tremendous success of small-box retailers such as Dollar General and Family Dollar).
  • As it is today, non-store retail will be the fastest-growing part of the retail business. Online is driving that trend today, but mobile and tablet applications will become more important in the future.
  • Income and demographic gaps among shoppers will continue to widen. Shoppers will increasingly fall into "under 30" and "over 50" groups, as both sectors of the population swell. And as income inequality increases, retailers will have to tailor their offerings to more specific segments of the population.
  • Much less mass appeal: As retailers continue gathering data and segmenting shoppers to find more "consistent and profitable response behaviors," they'll have to target an increasingly fragmented audience. "Overall, this process will require retailers to find growth in manageable, niche audiences or fragments and to isolate and respond to newly forming, or dynamic pockets of opportunity."
  • Driven by technology, the speed retailers need to seize trends will increase remarkably. "Some trends will work on a rapid cycle, with some remarkably important for just a few days or even hours."
  • More culturally-neutral icons with global appeal, as national boundaries weaken and companies need to appeal to shoppers in multiple places. "The most common solution will be to leverage automated human or animal-like avatars (computer representations of a person, company, or entity) to deliver to a wide, diverse audience."
  • Charlotte gets a shout-out in the report as a city that grocers and distributors have historically identified as similar in many ways to Rochester, NY. But there are differences, the report notes. "Rochester and Charlotte are not similar for every business problem; for seasonal programs, anticipating summertime to come to both cities simultaneously may produce an unfortunate result."
An avatar from the report