Friday, December 27, 2013

Aeropostale closing at SouthPark

The Aeropostale at SouthPark mall is closing, as the mall prepares to make room in the Macy's wing for a planned H&M store.

The store is holding a 70 percent off sale to clear out its inventory. There's no word yet on whether Aeropostale is opening a replacement store in SouthPark.

Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M is opening its third Charlotte-area store in SouthPark. The company already has a store open at Northlake Mall and another one opening January 16 at Pineville's Carolina Place.

The SouthPark store will be 20,000 square feet, H&M said. No opening date has been announced.

H&M has been growing, with rising sales, while Aeropostal has struggled. The teen-oriented retailer has reported four straight quarters of losses, and its holiday forecast calls for a larger-than-expected loss this year, according to Reuters.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Two Charlotte-area Edwin Watts golf stores closing

Two of the three local Edwin Watts golf stores are closing, in the wake of the specialty retailer's bankruptcy.

Those stores, on South Boulevard in Charlotte and Lyles Lane in Concord, are holding liquidation sales, with inventory markdowns starting at around 20 percent and increasing over the coming weeks. They're expected to close for good in early February.

The third area store, on Pineville-Matthews road, will remain open going forward, a worker at that location said.

Earlier this month, Edwin Watts and its 91 stores were sold to a golf retailer and a liquidator for almost $41 million. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November, blaming increased competition from other retailers and the lingering effects of the recession on golf.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Publix opening Concord store

Florida-based Publix Super Markets said Wednesday that it plans to open a store in Concord, adding a fourteenth Publix store to the Charlotte region.

No opening date has been set for the Concord store, said a Publix spokeswoman. The new store will be located in the planned Willow Oaks Crossing shopping center, at George Liles Parkway and Weddington Road. 

Publix has signed a lease for the location, and plans for the store to be 49,000 square feet. Concord is in the process of extending Weddington and George Liles to make the area more business- and traffic-
Planned Publix stores

As Publix ramps up its Charlotte division, the company has two local stores open, both just over the border in South Carolina. Publix is planning to open six stores next year and five more in 2015, in addition to the Concord store. 

The company has also announced plans to open stores in Asheville, Cary and Winston-Salem as it pushes into North Carolina. Charlotte and the rest of the state are, of course, home turf for Matthews-based Harris Teeter, adding to the competitive pressure on the local retailer. 

That pressure, as well as competition from Walmart and other discounters, is a major reason Harris Teeter decided to sell itself to Cincinnati-based Kroger earlier this year. That deal is expected to close early next year.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

H&M opening SouthPark store

It's official: After years of rumor and anticipation, Swedish fast fashion H&M retailer said Tuesday that it plans to open a SouthPark store.

The 20,000-square-foot store will be H&M's third in the Charlotte area, following stores in Carolina Place and Northlake Mall. The Northlake store is open, while the Carolina Place store is set to open Jan. 16.

Here's a little about the store, from H&M: "The new store will include full-priced collections for ladies, men, young ladies and young men, with separate “store within store” sections for accessories, lingerie, and its plus-size line, H&M+." There will also be a kid's clothing section.

No opening date was announced.

H&M's announcement doesn't include any details on where in the mall a store will be, and a check of building permits show there don't appear to be any filed yet for the project. But employees at the Hallmark store near Macy's told me last month that they had been told the store would be closed to make way for an H&M.

At 20,000 square feet, the H&M would have to take over some adjoining storefronts as well. Update: A SouthPark spokeswoman said the store will be in the Macy's wing, which is also getting a new American Girl store next year.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mellow Mushroom opens uptown

Charlotte's newest Mellow Mushroom is set to open Monday, offering uptown dwellers and office workers another pizza option.

The store is in the Catalyst building, next to the new Romare Bearden Park and near the soon-to-be-opened Charlotte Knights baseball stadium.

“With all of the growth in the Third Ward of Charlotte’s Uptown, we felt this was a perfect spot for our new location,” said co-owner Marc Kieffer, in a statement. “We see this as an area that is quickly becoming the center of living, working and playing uptown, and we are excited to be a part of it.”

Here's how the company describes its unique décor at the new restaurant:

In keeping with the Mellow Mushroom tradition of uniqueness and creativity, this Mellow provides a mid-century futuristic theme throughout the interior Standing 6 feet tall are two rocket ships at the entrance, which display Mellow gear and create a futuristic theme from the moment guests step foot through the front doors. Also setting the tone are Eames designed chairs, Sputnik lights and a large mural of a futuristic cocktail party depicting the hostess returning from her rocket ship with a Mellow Mushroom pizza for her guests.

The restaurant will be open late, operating from 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Wednesday, and 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Adding the mushroom to the mellow, by Mark Hames


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wingstops unveils its first Charlotte location

There's a new Wingstop open in the University Area, which the company says is the first of several new franchises it plans to add locally.

The store is on North Tryon Street, across from the UNC-Charlotte campus. The Wingstop franchise is operated by Alexandra Acosta and her father Miguel Flores Stringel.

Here's what the company had to say: The duo, which currently owns and operates several agricultural-based businesses throughout Mexico, signed a three-store agreement earlier this year. They have plans to open two additional locations in Matthew, N.C. and Harrisburg, N.C.
“After falling in love with the Wingstop brand and food in Kingsville, Texas, we are excited to introduce a great concept and wings to the Charlotte area,” said Acosta. “With two more locations
on the horizon, this is the beginning of a wonderful and exciting journey.
The Wingstop menu features classic and boneless wings, made fresh to order in 10 intense flavors including Lemon Pepper, Garlic Parmesan and Original Hot. Sides are made fresh daily including hand-cut seasoned fries, made from #1 Idaho potatoes, baked beans, coleslaw, potato salad and famous house made ranch and bleu cheese dips.


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Friday, December 6, 2013

Tropical Smoothie Cafe opens under former Panthers' player ownership

A former Carolina Panthers player has opened a Tropical Smoothie Café franchise in the Metropolitan shopping center near uptown Charlotte.

Everette Brown, a defensive end, was drafted in 2009 by the Carolina Panthers. Brown now plays for the Dallas Cowboys. So far this season, he has six tackles and a sack.

The Tropical Smoothie Café, the first in Charlotte, opened Nov. 25. Brown said he first ate at one of the restaurants when he was playing at Florida State University.


"As an athlete, I understand the importance of eating healthy, which is why I've been a big fan of Tropical Smoothie Cafe since my college ball days," said Brown, a Greenville native, in a statement. "I'm excited to share the healthier food and delicious smoothies with the active community in Charlotte. My fiancé and I have made Charlotte our home base, and of course I lived here while playing for the Panthers, so opening this restaurant was extra special for me."

Tropical Smoothie Café positions itself as a "healthy food with a tropical twist" brand. The company is planning to add 53 sites to its current roster of 357 stores next year, with up to 15 in Charlotte. On average, a location does more than $500,000 a year in business, the company said.

"Tropical Smoothie Cafe wants to partner with franchisees who believe in our 'eat better, feel better' mantra, and who better matches that profile than Everette Brown, an active NFL player?" said Mike Rotondo, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Café, in a statement. "We are confident consumers in Charlotte will enjoy our better-for-you options, and we look forward to growing our brand presence here in the years to come." 

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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Food Lion debuts new store format in Concord

Salisbury-based Food Lion debuted a new store format Wednesday in Concord, with upscale features such as a big walk-in cooler to keep produce fresh and a wider selection of organic and gluten-free products.

The store was remodeled inside an existing Food Lion location on Union Street, spokeswoman Christy Phillips-Brown said. The store could be a model for future Food Lions, Phillips-Brown said. Here's a rundown of the new and improved features at the 22,000-square-foot store:

  • The produce department is now a walk-in "garden cooler," designed to keep food fresher for longer.
  • Grab-n-Go foods, daily dinner deals from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and more "$1 deals."
  • Thousands of new items and more variety of organic and gluten-free items.
  • Beef in new "sealed-fresh packaging."
  • New registers with bigger screens designed to make it easier for customers to see what they're paying and check out more quickly.
  • New bagging system where associates will put frozen and cold items in blue bags, so you know to unpack and refrigerate them quickly.
The walk-in "garden cooler"

The new daily dinner menu
Food Lion is a subsidiary of Belgian grocery conglomerate Delhaize. The company is trying to regain its position as a low-price leader against discounters such as Walmart while also working to combat more upscale shopping from chains such as Publix and Harris Teeter.

Food Lion ranks third in the region's grocery sales, according to Chain Store Guide, behind Harris Teeter and Walmart.

In August, I sat down with Food Lion CEO Beth Newlands Campbell. "There's an imperative to set us apart," Newlands Campbell said. "You can’t be middle of the road."

You can read her whole interview here.

Read more here:

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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Peter Millar opens store within Paul Simon

Peter Millar, a company selling "premium lifestyle products," is opening a new store-within-a-store concept at the Paul Simon shop in SouthPark.

The 600-square-foot Crown Shop will feature Peter Millar apparel and custom display fixtures.

“Our customers have been loyal fans of Peter Millar since the brand’s inception in 2001,” said store owner Paul Simon, in a statement. “We are very excited to introduce the Crown Shop to our Paul Simon customers and solidify our position as a premier destination for the Peter Millar Collection.”

There will be a grand opening for the store on Dec. 5, featuring three days of 20 percent off cashmere products.

"The introduction of the Crown Shop is a great opportunity for us to further showcase the Peter Millar brand with one of our finest specialty retail partners," said Scott Ruerup, a Peter Millar executive. The store-within-a-store is Peter Millar's 11th Crown Shop.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Walmart adding supermarket in Gastonia

Walmart is planning to add a new Walmart Neighborhood Market - the mega-retailer's version of a supermarket - in Gastonia, the Gaston Gazette reports.

In Charlotte, Walmart debuted its Neighborhood Markets with a store on Independence Boulevard in February. The company is planning a second Charlotte Walmart Neighborhood Market on North Sharon Amity Road near W.T. Harris Boulevard - a move that sparked an outcry from Compare Foods, the shopping center's current grocery tenant.

The move into Gastonia signals that Walmart is planning to continue its expansion into the region's grocery market, where it's already been a major disruptive player. The Gastonia store would be near South New Hope Road and Redbud Drive. Walmart is also planning a Neighborhood Market in a former Winn-Dixie location in Kings Mountain, the Shelby Star reports.

The idea behind the Neighborhood Markets is pretty simple: The majority of goods sold at a Walmart Supercenter are groceries and other consumables. But Supercenters are about 182,000 square feet, about four times the size of a traditional supermarket. People don't like shopping in enormous stores when all they want is some milk and cereal, so Walmart is basically building traditional supermarkets with Supercenter low pricing.

Walmart now has almost 300 Neighborhood Markets open, which would make the company a larger grocery chain than Harris Teeter if it were a standalone entity. Walmart plans to keep opening Neighborhood Markets over the next few years, bringing the total to 500.

All that added competition for the same limited number of shoppers' grocery dollars is pressuring many retailers. Harris Teeter cited competition from discounters such as Walmart as one of the factors behind its decision to sell itself to Kroger (That deal is expected to close this month or next year in the first quarter). The pressure also hurt grocers who used to be low-price leaders such as Food Lion, which has had to cut back, and Winn-Dixie, which was pushed into bankruptcy.

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:

"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, 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 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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Metro Fitness opening south Charlotte gym

Metro Fitness plans to open its third Charlotte location next year, this one on Carmel Road in south Charlotte, in a location currently occupied by Two Pros Fitness.

The 6,000-square-foot gym has a targeted opening date sometime in January. The facility, called Metro 51, will offer CrossFit, kickboxing, mixed martial arts, self-defense, conditioning and youth classes. Personal training services will also be available.

"Metro 51 will offer the same high quality fitness experience that we are known for at our first two locations,” said Metro Fitness owner Denise Abood, in a statement. “From superior coaching to progressive training equipment to clean and upscale facilities, this location will look and feel Metro."

The gym is partnering with E.Z. Smith IV to open the new Metro location. Smith IV currently owns Two Pros, which is being upgraded to transition to Metro. Smith IV will oversee the gym's day-to-day operations.

There are currently Metro gym locations in Elizabeth and Myers Park.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Charlotte H&M stores opening in November and December

The first two Charlotte-area H&M stores are set to open in November and December, with Northlake Mall's store opening first, followed by the Carolina Place location.

Northlake's grand opening is scheduled for noon on Thursday, Nov. 14. The event will feature giveaways and music, Northlake said. 

Rendering of the Northlake H&M
The Carolina Place store will open in early December, though an exact date hasn't been set, a mall representative said.

In terms of size, the Northlake store will be larger than the Carolina Place store, clocking in at 25,600 square feet. It's located in the former Borders bookstore at Northlake. The Carolina Place store will be 17,000 square feet.

Building permits show H&M is spending a substantial amount to upgrade and renovate both stores. At Northlake, permits show H&M is spending about $2 million on the new store. And at Carolina Place, the fast-fashion retailer is investing about $2.5 million.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

I.C. London at the Village at SouthPark

There's a new option for upscale lingerie at the Village at SouthPark, with a 1,262-square-foot I.C. London store that opened earlier this month.

The store joins I.C. London locations in Dilworth and Ballantyne. Here's their description, if you're not familiar with the company:

"Known for providing the largest selection of bras in the Charlotte metro area, I.C. London offers women bra sizes ranging from A-M cup and band sizes of 30-46. Owner Shelly Domenech initially brought the family business to Charlotte and opened the first I.C. London location in Historic

And here's a story from December about the I.C. London's success, written by my excellent colleague Caroline McMillan Portillo. An excerpt:

"As the lingerie and fine sleepwear boutique I.C. London celebrates 20 years in Charlotte, owner Shelly Domenech, 43, remembers when she almost handed over the keys.
It was 1996. The boutique – a play on the “I see London, I see France” rhyme – was 7 and Domenech was 30. It was the only job she’d ever had.
Her parents had bought the store in 1989, when it was named “Illusions” and located in their hometown of Hendersonville, about 100 miles west of Charlotte.
Domenech, a recent college graduate and an MBA student at UNC Charlotte became the sole owner at 23, moving the store to its current location off East Boulevard in Dilworth.
She dropped out of the master’s program and signed the lease. Ten days later, her 52-year-old father died.
“I said, ‘This is one of the last things my dad did on this earth. I’m going to make it work,’ ” Domenech recalls."

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Longboards bites the dust on East Blvd.

In another round of the disappearing restaurants at Kenilworth Drive and East Blvd. saga, Longboards Tap and Taco is no more.

I learned of the closure Friday night, when I had arranged to meet some friends there after work. When we showed up - whoops, no Longboards. Even most of the furniture in the darkened building had been removed. No one answered the restaurant's phone on Monday.

The restaurant lasted for about six months, in a troubled spot that has now been Picasso's, Sutton House and Longboards in the mere three years I've lived in the neighborhood. So what's wrong with the location? Here's Charlotte Restaurant Traffic's take

"What went wrong? I don’t think you can open a restaurant in Charlotte without one parking space? Maybe you don’t need parking in New York City to run a successful restaurant but here you are dooming yourself to failure. Throw in Longboards mediocre food and you have a recipe for disaster. I drove by Longboards on Saturday and it looked like buzzards had picked the place clean, even the booths are gone. We give credit to groups that take it upon themselves to try to open restaurants and feel bad when they don’t make it. Longboards tried and failed."

While I agree with Charlotte Restaurant Traffic that the food was "meh," I'll miss Longboards' good, fairly-priced local beer selection. The atmosphere, while at times a bit loud and confusing, was also a step up over Longboards' predecessors.

So long, Longboards. We hardly knew ye.

What do you think could make it in that spot? Anything?

Bonus question: Do you think the huge mural on the side of the Longboards building should stay or go?

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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Nana's Soul Food opening second location

Nana's Soul Food Kitchen, which has won praise for its down-home buffet meals featuring favorites such as collard greens and mac and cheese, is opening a second location next month in Indian Trail.

Jody Yetti, director of operations for the restaurant, said the 3,500-square-foot location will be in the Carolina Courts basketball facility on Chestnut Parkway in Indian Trail. Shawn and Kiana Morrison started the original Nana's near Yorkmont and West Tyvola roads after moving to Charlotte from New York five years ago.

Some of the soul food available at Nana's
"Mr. Morrison would always say, 'You can't get good soul food here," said Yetti. "He would say, 'My wife can cook better.'"

Expansion had always been the plan, Yetti said. The grand opening for the Indian Trail location is set for Nov. 15 (updated from Nov. 8).

This is Nana's second attempt to branch out. Nana's did try to open a fine-dining uptown restaurant last year, but it closed after eight months. Yetti said there wasn't enough parking to make the location in Gateway Village on Trade Street work.

At the Indian Trail location, Yetti said they will try to continue many of the things that made the original Nana's a hit, such as its family feel.

"We have a big church following on Sundays," said Yetti. "That's probably our biggest day."

One thing they'll definitely have plenty of is the soul food. Yetti has trouble picking her favorite dish.

"I love chef's bread pudding," she said. "I would say that, and the mac and cheese." Then she paused.

"I take that back. The yams are my favorite. The yams are so good."

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

American Girl store coming to SouthPark

American Girl fans, get excited: The company said Tuesday it plans to open a 12,000-square-foot store in SouthPark mall next year that will include a small restaurant and a doll hair salon.

The store will be the doll company's only North Carolina retail outlet. The American Girl store will open in fall 2014, in the Macy's wing of SouthPark.

"As a leader in experiential retail, American Girl has found a great partner in SouthPark Mall, a well-established premium retailer with an upscale mix of stores and restaurants," said said Wade Opland, American Girl’s vice president of retail, in a statement. "It's an ideal location to introduce American Girl to the area and we look forward to opening our doors next fall."

The SouthPark store will carry the full line of American Girl dolls and many of the associated books, clothes for girls, doll outfits and accessories. In addition, it will also have a selection of other services:

"American Girl fans will be able to enjoy a meal and a delicious dessert or celebrate a birthday in the store’s fun and casual 25-seat Bistro, treat their dolls to a new hairdo in the Doll Hair Salon, or design a cute doll-sized T-shirt in the “Creativi-Tees” boutique."

There are currently 16 American Girl retail stores, with its first and flagship retail store opened in Chicago in 1998. The closest to Charlotte are in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. American Girl is a division of toy maker Mattel, Inc.

Simon Property Group owns SouthPark mall, the region's largest shopping center at 1.6 million square feet. The mall is more than 94 percent occupied, according to Simon's most recent annual report.

"We're delighted to welcome American Girl to SouthPark," said Randy Thomas, general manager
at SouthPark, in a statement. "We strive to continuously evolve as a shopping destination and American Girl further enhances our property’s list of retailers."

Check out the trailer for the American Girl movie about doll/girl Kit Kittredge. She wants to be - what else? - a reporter.


Update: J.C. Penney, Kohl's to open Thanksgiving Day

Kohl's and J.C. Penney joined the crush of stores breaking down the wall between Thanksgiving and commerce, with their announcements that they plan to open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Granted, it was already a pretty leaky wall, with Toys 'R' Us, Target, Walmart, Sears and Kmart all opening on Thanksgiving Day last year. But with the announcements from Macy's last week and Kohl's Monday that they'll also open on Thanksgiving, the last bastions of retail resistance are crumbling.

J.C. Penney will also open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. The suffering retailer had held out for a 6 a.m. Friday opening in years past, meaning it was one of the last stores in line for customers to shop.

"Obviously, we were one of the last to open (last year)," Tony Bartlett, J.C. Penney's executive vice president of stores, said in USA Today. But this year: "We're all in."

"As many customers are eager to get a jumpstart on their shopping, we are opening our stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day as a convenience to our customers who want to make Kohl’s their first stop," said Michelle Gass, Kohl's chief customer officer, in a statement.

"Shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend has become a much-anticipated tradition enjoyed with friends and family," said Gass.

All of which means more people than ever before will likely be bolting from the Thanksgiving meal to wait in lines outside shops, or skipping dinner altogether. And more workers will miss their holiday, because they'll be prepping the sales floors for our arrival.

But, as Gass hints, perhaps no retailer can afford to stay closed on Thanksgiving anymore. If your customers are spending all their money at your competitors, they might not have any left for you if you wait until midnight or even (as stores did just three years ago) 4 a.m. Friday to open.

The early shopping rush still begs the question: Why go out and freeze your tail off on Thanksgiving day when you can shop online with your feet propped up in front of the fire, or football game? That's where I'll be with and my iPad. What do you think?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tropical Smoothie Cafe coming to Metropolitan

A new Tropical Smoothie Café is opening this fall at the Metropolitan complex, near uptown Charlotte.

The restaurant will be near the Trader Joe's at the Metropolitan, next to the dry cleaning shop at the parking deck entrance.

Here's a description from their Facebook page of what to expect from Tropical Smoothie Café:
"Tropical Smoothie Café menu boasts bold, flavorful food and smoothies with a healthy appeal. Our food and smoothies are made to order with fresh ingredients. Our smoothies are made from superior simple ingredients including real fruit and natural sugar. Our toasted wraps, bistro sandwiches, grilled flatbreads, and gourmet salads are made fresh with high quality meats and cheeses; and topped with fresh produce and flavorful sauces. Combine that with a fun atmosphere and friendly hospitality and you see why people return again and again for the Tropical Smoothie Café Experience."

The café doesn't list an exact opening date, but signs are up and work is progressing at the store.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

The Map Shop rebrands, refocuses in search of growth

The Map Shop on East Morehead Street can seem like a charming anachronism, an ink-and-paper merchant in an ever more Google-ized world where everyone carries a map of the world in their phone.

But owners Ted and Patrice Northrup say they're rebranding and refreshing the store, focusing on new areas such as travel books and mapping services for businesses, to stay in business - and grow.


"People say, 'Map shop? How are you guys still in business?'" said Ted Northrup. The store has been in Charlotte for 22 years, 13 at its current location, even as Northrup estimates about 90 percent of map stores around the country have gone under. "If you're not changing, you're not staying."

Some of the rebranding at The Map Shop will be subtle. Northrup said The Map Shop plans to drop the "The" from its name, a la becoming "Facebook."

Other changes are more obvious. The store took off its awnings and some signs as it prepares to redo and replace them, and add a new logo. That's prompted some questions, Northrup said.

"We looked at the building and said, 'You know, this is starting to look pretty tired too,'" he said. "Some folks have asked us if we're going out of business."
Not even close, said Northrup. "The Map Shop still has a strong retail presence thanks to loyal Charlotte customers who appreciate unique specialty retail shops," he said.

Now, they're doing more map finishing and framing. They're doing more maps for businesses to help illustrate sales territories, such as this one. They carry unique and custom maps, such as topographical relief maps for people with mountain houses.

Annual sales are currently at just under $1 million, Northrup said. With more exposure, he thinks Map Shop can double that.

"In the back of customers' minds they think they can find anything they want on the web," said Northrup. "We're competing with Google Maps. The key is for us to offer something they don't offer."
It also helps that the business has been online since 1998, Northrup said, giving it time to establish a digital customer base.

And in the world of physical maps, Northrup said he has to convince customers a map is worth spending on. Many buy world maps to pin their travels on, Northrup said.

"I've been trying to educate customers about the value of a quality map," said Northrup. "You can buy cheesy Chinese maps with Chinese frames pretty cheap."

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