Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Target delays proposed San Rafael store

No major surprise that Target Corp has delayed its plans to build a 140,000 sq.ft store next to Home Depot on Shoreline Parkway in San Rafael. The big box retailer announced last year that it would cut back on store openings for 2009 and 2010 and is also committed to opening a new store next year in Petaluma.

According to the North Bay Business Journal, the landowner, who goes by the unfortunate name of Cal-Pox, is none too keen on the delay and wants the City of San Rafael to finalize the EIR. Cal-Pox is still reeling from the loss of a major tenant earlier this year when the nearby Chevrolet dealership went out of business.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Northgate Mall refurb: new photos, new renderings and new timing

Yuk - it looks like Home Depot! was my first reaction to the photos of the nearly-completed first stage of the Northgate Mall renovation.

The Northgate Mall construction website has been updated with some new photos of the work in progress and artistic renderings of the finished product. Also, a revised timeline for completion of the first phase, which was previously supposed to be finished at the end of last month, but is now scheduled for the end of March. The grand opening for the completed renovation is now scheduled for November, in time for the holiday shopping rush (if there is one this year).

Bare steel beams and exposed roofing and ducting give the new interior space a very industrial look, which is not very attractive in its current state.
However, things look better on the artistic renderings, such as the one below of the food court, with plenty of wood to soften the look and of course lots of attractive happy smiling shoppers too.
The photo below shows how the exterior of the food court is shaping up. More steel beams, which, if you look at the artist rendering, will be covered by some fuzzy brown stuff...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Marin Retail: nothing much happening here...

Credit to the North Bay Business Journal for making the effort to report on the state of Marin's retail market. The content was not that exciting, but did include some dry real estate statistics and commentary. Let's interpret:

"Vacancies rise modestly". The vacancy rate in Marin shopping centers increased from 4.0% in 2007 to 6.2% in 2008. So the amount of vacant store space increased by more than 50%. Modest increase? No. But we're still way below the national average of approx. 10%

Average asking rental rates in the county are approx. $28 per sq.ft NNN, and are highger in the south of the county ($36 per sq.ft) than the north ($25 per sq.ft).

"Both Whole Foods and Trader Joes set to add stores in 2009". But don't form a line at the door just yet. The last time I looked, the Novato Whole Foods was not expected to open until spring 2010. And in this economic climate I would be surprised to see any activity at the sites acquired by Whole Foods in Mill Valley and Trader Joes in Larkspur.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shabby Chic goes out in style

After just eight months, Shabby Chic, the flouncy, earthy, flowery seller of everything shabby and chic closed its doors at The Village at Corte Madera this month. The retailer, a victim of the recession and an unfortunately-timed decision to embark on a major store expansion program, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month and has been forced to close most of its stores.

However, keeping true to founder Rachel Ashwell's philospohy of living and breathing the brand, she has maintained a fascinating blog of her journey through these tough times, complete with snippets of wisdom, heart-rending outpourings of grief from her fans, language as flowery as her bed sheets, and photos from her new book...

February 2:

This is a blog I never in my wildest nightmares thought I would have to write. Last Thursday evening Shabby Chic filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The road to recovery for Shabby Chic will be hard and recovery is by no means certain. I find myself in a situation of having to understand parts of business that are challenging for a flea market girl.
February 12:

Our Greenwich Avenue and East Hampton Stores have closed. My staff were of such support to the end. Both landlords are gentlemen. They took the time to travel to meet me last week for tea.

There has been many a night we find ourselves sitting in my office, regrouping of the day’s events and discussing the following days agenda. Often we don’t even notice the sun has gone down, and we are talking in the dark with the exception of the light source from my computer.

March 2:

As always I look for guidance and metaphors in life... Some flowers are annuals, some perennials. Even though some flowers just have one season to make their mark, they still leave behind memories, the same way some stores that we prematurely had to close, will.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

New Petaluma center may impact Novato retail

A report prepared for the City of Petaluma predicts that the proposed East Washington Place shopping center may cause local residents to shop closer to home rather than at nearby centers in Novato and Santa Rosa.

According to the Fiscal and Economic Impact Analysis conducted by Bay Area Economics, The Petaluma area is currently in short supply of general merchandise and other stores, which means that almost 50% of retail sales in these categories are "leaking" out of the Petaluma to adjacent cities.

That may change after the opening of East Washington Place, which is slated to include 362,000 square feet of retail space, including a 138,000 sq.ft Target. Total retail sales at the center in its first year are estimated at $120 million, of which $68 million is projected to be money that petaluma area residents would otherwise have spent at stores outside the Petaluma area. Watch out Vintage Oaks.

A number of major retail developments have been proposed for Petaluma in recent years following a 2004 report that highlighted that nearly $200 million of retail spending by Petaluma residents was leaking to stores outside of Petaluma.

According to the North Bay Business Journal, another large center is also planned for Petaluma. The 315,000 sq.ft Deer Creek Village would be anchored by a Lowes home improvement store. This may prove to be a regional attraction, drawing shoppers from the Novato area and elsewhere.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Weekend news digest

At the end of another week of depressing stories of store closures, bankruptcies and sales declines, it's time to tune in to the serious news stories in Marin-land.

First off, the Marin IJ took an excursion to northern San Rafael this week and came back with two stories about Northgate. The first article was about the renovations to Northgate Mall, where the big news is that the mall is.... still being renovated. There are a couple of photos of the (still empty) new food court, but not much to get excited about.

Second article reports on approval of the redesign of Northgate One, home of the World's nastiest Safeway. No word on whether Safeway will remodel their store, but they at least show some nice before and after shots of the center's refurb:

Meanwhile, the Twin Cities Times gets enthusiastic (and who wouldn't be) about the replacement of the Town Center Corte Madera's Maccas with The Counter. From the website:

Step into The Counter® and you’re greeted with a clipboard and an extensive list of fresh mouth-watering ingredients that allow you to build your own gourmet burger. Our 312,120+ different burger combinations make every burger as unique as each customer. Rarely is the same burger made twice in one day.

Anti-Established in 2003, The Counter® is the 21st century’s bold answer to the classic burger joint. Ushering in a fresh era of industrial decor, today’s music, cold beer, unique wines, cocktails, and burger options that are only limited by your imagination.

Read the build-a-burger menu and try not to drool.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Paradise in Pacheco

Good news week continues with the announcement that Paradise Foods will open it's second Marin store at Pacheco Plaza later this year. Paradise, aka "Marin's most extraordinary market", has a strong following at it's existing store in Corte Madera, which opened in 2001, where the gourmet selection includes a large range of prepared meals, pre-cooked in the store's kitchen.

According to the Marin IJ, Pacheco Plaza owner John Kieckhefer chose Paradise Foods over other potential tenants because customers wanted a gourmet grocer. Said Paradise Foods' Mel Gilmour:

"We had looked at other sites a while ago, then decided we weren't going to expand," Mel Gilmour said. "But when that one became available we felt like it was a good location for us. It's a market we could do well in. We see it as a good fit with the whole place being redeveloped and fixed up."
So is this an inspired move by Paradise Foods, opening their second store in an established center, far enough from their existing store not to compete, but in a region where they already have some knowledge of the market and where they have a good reputation?

Or is it a risky adventure, choosing to expand at a time when most retailers are cutting back their plans for new stores, and going head to head with a new full-range Safeway store and with the prospect of a new Whole Foods opening in downtown Novato?

The huge risk that I see is in the customer demographics. Gourmet markets like Paradise Foods, Mollie Stones, and Woodlands require affluent consumers, and there aren't as many of these in Northern Marin. Average incomes in Novato were $82,000 in 1999, compared to $112,000 in Corte Madera and $200,000 in Tiburon.

Affluent consumers do exist in Novato (2,077 households in Novato had incomes above $150,000 in 1999, compared with just 1,438 households in Tiburon), so there is potential demand for an up-market grocer. But can Paradise Foods get those Novato customers to drive past Whole Foods to visit their store in Ignacio? That, I think, will be difficult.

*update: news release

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Signs of the times

Spotted this week in Corte Madera, Video Kamron joins the casualty list. Video and music stores may soon be a thing of the past.

Meanwhile, in Mill Valley, Famous4 is determined to fight it out.