Sunday, February 24, 2008
Well, folks, here is that store. And no, it's not a joke. It's in the Mall at Northgate, it's called Sold Online, and, as the hi-tech display in the picture shows, it works like this: you drop off your item, they sell it online, and you get a check in the (snail?) mail.
Unfortunately I didn't have any items with me to drop off (why didn't I think to bring that old Ikea table with me to the mall?), so I couldn't try out the service.
Any ideas why there's a dentist's chair in the store?
Saturday, February 23, 2008
I heard that the Safeway wasn't too good, and having seen the store I can see why. Both inside and outside the supermarket needs some work to bring it up to the standards of other Safeways in the region. The store is smaller than average and seems crowded, with stock piled in the aisles, making it difficult for customers to pass each other.
With no other full-sized supermarket in the Terra Linda/Las Galinas/Civic Center area, it looks like Safeway does not have an incentive to improve its act.
Friday, February 22, 2008
After several years of speculation, Macerich finally revealed plans at the end of last year for a full renovation, to begin sometime in 2008. Going against the current fashion for de-malling, they've decided to keep the roof on, but make significant changes to bring the center up to date, including new high-level windows along the malls and the creation of outdoor plaza areas. More details here.
The layout is a T-shape, with a department store anchoring the end of each mall. There's level parking on each side, with several points of entry to the mall in addition to direct entry to the department stores. There's also a double-deck parking garage in the south-west corner.
I took my camera along on my visit this weekend to record the "before" version. On the outside, Northgate looks like many a regional mall from this era, surrounded by a sea of car parking with a lot of not very attractive walls. There are several areas with external-facing stores, but as usual, these are low-traffic locations and attract low-rent tenants.
Inside the center the natural light is quite good but the malls are rather wide and have been filled with an abundance of kiosks, carts, vending machines, palm trees, plantings and other clutter. Part of the renovation plan is to bring forward the store fronts to narrow the malls, providing a more intimate retail environment without the need for messy mall furniture. The renovation also needs to do something about the poorly-designed side malls and long bare walls that exist at the moment. The lack of activity in these areas brings down the vibe of the whole center.
The three department stores cover the low to middle market segments, with Mervyn's anchoring the discount end, closely followed by Sears, with Macy's having slightly higher price points. The Macy's store is possibly in the worst condition, with worn carpeting and beaten-up fixtures. Mervyn's tile and carpet flooring is also clearly ancient, and Sears is not much better. Let's hope a good overhaul of these stores is part of the renovation package. The specialty shop roster is a long way from what you would expect from a major mall in Marin. Admittedly, the center management isn't actively trying to lease the units ahead of the renovation, so there is no point being too harsh on the current composition. But after the reno is complete the roster should be a who's-who of mid-market fashion chain stores. Here's your demographic:
The most popular part of the center on my visit was the food court, which was doing a great business with fans of the fast-food.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Sees Candies is to open a permanent store at Vintage Oaks in Novato.
The Sharper Image has filed for bankruptcy and intends to shutter 90 stores. It's not known if the outlet at the Village at Corte Madera will be one of the closures. Gonna miss them massage chairs.
The Marin Independent Journal reports that downtown Larkspur is to get a face lift, including new trees and improved sidewalks.
Also from the IJ, watch out for dirty foot spas next time you visit a nail salon.
Yet another new grocer is opening a store in Novato. Following the opening of Trader Joe's last year and the construction of new full size Safeway and Whole Foods markets, Berkeley-based Grocery Outlet is set to refurbish and occupy the vacant 25,680 sq.ft Bell market unit at the Nave Shopping Centre on South Novato Boulevard.
Grocery Outlet is a surplus or salvage market, which means it picks up surplus supplies from food manufacturers and is able to sell them at discount prices.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Friday, February 15, 2008
One widely used source for retail spending estimates is the Census Bureau’s Consumer Expenditure Survey, which is produced every few years. I totaled up the retail expenditure items for the San Francisco metro area from the 2006 survey and it appears that average spending per household was $18,111.
As we all know, Marin folks have more cash to spend than the average San Franciscan. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, average per capita income in Marin in 2005 was 44% higher than San Francisco. If we assume retail spending was also 44% higher than San Francisco the average Marin household would have spent approx. $26,000 in 2006. Allowing for some additional growth over the last two years bumps this up to $27,600 per household in 2008. With just over 100,000 households in Marin, that adds up to around $2.8 billion this year.
Now let’s add it up the other way. In 2006 taxable sales in retail stores in Marin were just over $3.2 billion, according to the CA Board of Equalization, which monitors such things. Allowing for some market growth, the 2008 total is probably around $3.4 billion. But this total includes non-household sales (i.e. trade sales such as lumber, office supplies etc) and autos, boats etc (which I don’t count as retail). Take these items out and the total reduces to $2.1 billion. Then we have to add in an allowance for sales of goods and services which do not attract sales tax, such as food to take home and prescription drugs. These items account for approx. 25% of household retail spending. Adding them in pushes up total retail sales in the County to $2.8 billion. This just happens to match the amount I calculated above, which is nice.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
DeLano's and Longs Drugs provide the anchors, with a selection of specialty shops that are... well "convenient" I guess is a good word.
Tagliaferri's is the most interesting store - an italian deli where you can get a coffee and some salami.
There's also a few eateries - Villa Roma, Cafe Bangkok and Henrys Burgers.
And there's a fitness center and a few vacant stores.
I didn't hang around long enough to sample anything.
Monday, February 11, 2008
But of course the Kieckhefers are not going to give up without a fight. After forty one years service to the community they're ready to re-model, re-brand and re-launch! Behold the Pacheco Lifestyle Village! Plans have been submitted and approved. Architects drawings portray ultra-trendy shoppers loaded with full shopping bags and sipping lattes in the sun outside brightly-lit shops. Ah... the dream lifestyle.
I wish them luck and I think they might need it. Lucky Novato-area shoppers will soon have new full size Safeway and Whole Foods markets, as well as the recently-opened Trader Joe’s. Competing with that will be tough, especially with a new Safeway just across the freeway.
But I will certainly miss the old center. Can we at least keep the monument sign? The City wants to replace it with one that is up to code - i.e. no more than six feet tall, like this one at Novato Fair. Yuk!
Thursday, February 7, 2008
The boards are already up around these units, with cult frenchies Lacoste, sporty footwear store Puma and SoCal T-shirt peddler Michael Stars signed up to offer their wares to the voracious Marin public.
It's been quite a year for the Village as it races to cast off it's stodgy image by bringing in the hippest boutiques and trendiest chain stores. What a turnaround from owner Macerich's previous policy of marketing The Village as the classy safe mall for the thirtysomething Marin housewife, while positioning Northgate in San Rafael (which Macerich also owns) as the place to go for teen and twenties fashions. I'm guessing that they got the message that none of the cool retailers in the latter category wanted to go to Northgate.
I've certainly noticed more of a buzz in recent months, with bigger crowds and a younger demographic at The Village since the opening of Abercrombie & Fitch, Juicy Couture, True Religion and Lululemon.
Macerich are working on plans to extend The Village - so now's our chance to tell them what we would like to see there. What's that you say? Bring back Crate & Barrel...?
I wonder how the developers expected this center to work? Did they think the ferry commuters would stroll over to shop there on their way home? Maybe they anticipated a greater density of new home development in the area. Or perhaps they imagined the 5,000 “residents” of San Quentin State Penitentiary would provide a loyal and regular source of customer traffic.
Without a local customer base, the only businesses that can trade successfully at the center are destination stores, such as the Marin Brewing Company and Bed Bath etc. These businesses are well known throughout central Marin and they work fine, albeit in isolation. We all get the BB&B 20% off coupons in our mail every month, stuff them in our kitchen draw until the next one arrives, then forget to take them with us when it’s time to buy towels.
Destination retailers don’t need to co-locate with a critical mass of other retailers, which is why you find them on stand-alone sites with good visibility and car parking. People drive up, go inside to do their thing, and then leave. Destination shoppers are not there to wander around and browse at nearby stores; hence the vacant units at The Landing.
Perhaps if a major destination grocer – Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods – had taken the ex-Albertsons space instead of BB&B, the rest of the shopping mall would have kept busy enough to keep the stores trading along the mall, the non-retail uses out and the vacancies down. But Trader Joe’s has plans for a new store at the nearby Cost Plus Plaza, and Whole Foods has committed to the old Albertsons site in Mill Valley.
Retailers with outlets in Marin include department stores Nordstrom and Macys, whose same-store sales in January were both approx. -7% lower than the same period last year. Target was down -1.1% and Gap dwn -2%, while Ann Taylor and Abercrombie & Fitch each saw 0% growth.
Talbots, which runs Talbots and J Jill brands at The Village at Corte Madera, saw its quarterly sales fall by 6%, and responded by announcing that it would increase to 100 the number of underperforming stores it plans to close. Chicos, also with a new store at The Village, had a shocker, with January same-store sales down -22%.
Best performer among the large stores was Costco, whose same-store sales for the January period increrased by 7%. Sales at Ross were up 1.1%.