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.