Thursday, December 23, 2010

Marin retail sales best in four years

Retail sales are surging back as customers across the nation head to the malls and exercise all the pent-up spending energy they've been accumulating during the recession.

For Marin retailers, this has been the best retail sales period for many years. The 1% retail sales tax distributed to cities in Marin in December (the purple line on the chart below) was over $3 million, a 10.7% increase over 2009 AND it was above both the 2008 and 2007 totals for the same month.

So is this the start of a new era of prosperity - or a blip in an otherwise unimpressive year?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

San Rafael Target decision delayed again; and where did that sales tax come from..?

San Rafael Council failed to come to a decision again on the proposed Target in San Rafael after another marathon session at last night's Council meeting. This time the loudest noises were being made by those in opposition to the store, who continue to ask questions about traffic impacts, minimum wages and the effect that the store will have on local Mom & Pop retailers.

Earlier in the day Target launched its charm offensive by stationing people around the city with large red "Yes Target" signs. There's also a website, Facebook page and twitter feed.  The opposition group also has a "Heck No" Facebook page, and is attempting to get enough signatures on a petition to force a referendum.

As an aside, it is interesting to see that Target is claiming $675,000 in new sales tax revenues will be provided by the new store. If this figure is the 1% sales tax that goes to the City of San Rafael, that would suggest Target expects the store to make $67.5MM in annual retail sales, which just happens to correspond to $500 per square foot for the 135,000 sq.ft store. Add on to that figure sales from groceries (which aren't taxed) and you have what will be one of the best performing Target stores in the nation (Target's average sales performance was $287 per sq.ft in 2009).

Of course this won't be new sales tax, but will instead be the tax that would have been paid at wherever Target's customers shopped before the new Target appeared; so the majority of it will be a diversion of tax receipts to the City of San Rafael from other Marin cities, in particular the City of Novato, which is where locals buy their Target stuff now. A sizable proportion would likely also be diverted from other stores in San Rafael, so the net new tax receipts for the City of San Rafael would be somewhat less than $675,000.

Overall, I think $70MM+ in annual sales is rather ambitious for a store in this inconvenient and unattractive location, so don't be surprised if the numbers come in quite a bit lower than advertised.

Monday, December 13, 2010

CVS drug store to open in Tiburon

Finally some good news for Tiburon: CVS is planning to open a new store in the space that was vacated by DeLano's Market nearly two years ago. According to the Marin IJ, the store will include a drive-through pharmacy.

(photo credit: Summit Model Train Kits)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Marin retail sales edge up in November

Retail sales tax distributions in Marin showed strong growth in November, coming in18.6% above November 2009. 
So far in 2010, some $25.5 million of sales tax receipts has been distributed to Marin's Cities, up 4.2% from the same period in 2009. There is still a way to go before retail sales recover to their pre-recession levels: sales to date in 2010 are 13.2% below those of the same period in 2008.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Can the Marin Country Mart lure upscale Bay Area shoppers?

It's fascinating to see the first batch of new retailers appear at newly-landscaped Marin Country Mart. Owner Jim Rosenfield, who recently said that he had lost $7 million on the Brentwood Country Mart, has been successful in selling the Marin concept to some of his existing Brentwood tenants. So far, either open or in the pipeline, we have:
  • Malia Mills (designer swimwear)
  • Erica Tanov (Berkeley-based designer fashions)
  • James Perse (Los Angeles designer - women's, men's and home)
  • Twig and Fig (upscale stationery)
  • Miette (Cupcakes and pastries, small store in the San Francisco Ferry Building)
  • Rustic Bakery (Larkspur's own organic bakery, with stores on Magnolia Ave. and Grant Street, Novato)
  • Poppy Store (Kids designer clothing; another tenant of the original Brentwood Country Mart, and owned by "According To Jim's" wife Jenny Belushi)
Good to see lots of stores that will be new to Marin. There's a clear "upscale designer" theme emerging, that suggests the Mart is being positioned as a regional destination, which is something that no other Marin mall or shopping center has attempted.

The reason the Mart needs to pull customers from beyond the Marin area is that upscale designer boutiques only serve the top end of the market - the wealthiest 5%-10%. Marin is a wealthy place, but there are only 12,157 households that have incomes of $200,000 or more (according to the 2000 Census). That makes for a very thin market, which is why high-end fashion districts and malls are usually only found in the larger cities.

Los Angeles County, where the The Brentwood and Malibu Country Marts are located, had 108,889 households with incomes above $200,000 in 2000.
In the San Francisco Metropolitan Area (the Bay Area), there were over 150,000 households in this highest-income group. These shoppers tend to gravitate towards Filmore Street and Union Square in San Francisco, which are the two largest high-end fashion districts.

The owners of Marin Country Mart are trying to position the center to take a piece of this market. According to the Mart's marketing brochure there are 75,000 households with incomes above $200,000 within a 30-minute drive.  That suggests a trade area that extends as far as Oakland, southern San Francisco and Santa Rosa.

For the concept to work the center will need a critical mass of upscale retailers. The three existing anchor businesses at the center are 24-hour Fitness, the Marin Brewing Company and Bed Bath and Beyond. These are strong business that are local destinations in their own right. They anchor the center, fill the car park, and provide the bulk of the rent. But they are not upscale and are not going to help sell the center as an upscale destination.

It looks like Mr Rosenfield will need to add a few more big-name designer stores and some high-end eating and drinking establishments if he is going to succeed in tempting the the Bay Area's wealthy to make repeat visits to the Marin Country Mart.

*Update: the Mart's website now has some detail, including a mall directory

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Smart move of the week: Good Earth to relocate to Fair-Anselm Plaza

A photo-shoot and lease signing ceremony generated lots of press yesterday for the news that Good Earth Organic and Natural Foods Store is expanding and relocating to the ex-Albertsons store at Fair-Anselm Plaza. The store will grow in size from 8,000 sq.ft currently to 20,000 sq.ft and include an expanded prepared foods selection and more non-food items.

The Plaza was acquired earlier this year by LRG Capital Real Estate Partners, a Larkspur-based investment fund. In keeping with the green philosophy of both the store and the town, the project team is considering several sustainable features, including daylighting, solar PV and a grey water reuse system.

This is a smart move by the Good Earth owners.  It's a relatively safe expansion in a town where they are already established with a store that residents like.  It also prevents any competitors from opening in the Fair-Anselm space. And there is no chance a competitor will open in their old store: Good Earth plans to use that building for their school lunch business.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

DeLano's closing in Tiburon and Mill Valley

The Delano's grocery chain, which has struggled to maintain market share in the face of new competition and declining consumer spending, has folded. The two Southern Marin stores, at Tamalpais Junction, Mill Valley and The Cove, Tiburon, are expected to close in December. As reported today in the IJ, it looks like the Fairfax store will remain open but will drop the DeLano's name. The chain's three San Francisco stores are also closing.

DeLano's presence in Marin began in 2006, when they took over five Bell Markets. Poor performance led to the closure of the DeLano's market in downtown Tiburon in February 2009, and the store in Novato closed the following August.

The two Southern Marin stores have likely seen a sales decline following the opening of Whole Foods at the Alto Center in Mill Valley.  The Fairfax store benefits from little local competition, although that would change if a market is found by the new owners of the Fair-Anselm Plaza.

So what now for the closed stores? According to Fresh & Easy Buzz, There are a few small-format grocers currently looking to expand in Northern California, including Fresh & Easy, Henry's Farmers Market and Sprouts Farmers Market. Any of these would be good new additions to Marin County. Local grocer Mollie Stones may also be interested, although the Southern Marin sites may be considered too close to Mollie's existing stores in Sausalito and the Bon Air Center.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New stores for Marin Country Mart

News of several new stores for the renovated Marin Country Mart, all of which are new to Marin County and most of which are local Bay Area businesses. Designer Erica Tanov has opened a store at the former Larkspur Landing center, while other stores expected to open soon include James Perse, stationery store Twig & Fig, and Ferry Building cake seller Miette.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Making stores sustainable with LEED for Retail

The US Green Building Council officially launched LEED for Retail and the LEED Volume program at Greenbuild last week. LEED for Retail is the result of several years of work and preparation, including a pilot version, three drafts and the input of several major retailers. The LEED Volume program is also largely aimed at retailers; it provides a tool for achieving LEED certification for a prototype building, which allows developers and retail chains to roll out multiple stores without having to go through the effort and expense of certifying each building separately.

Designing a LEED system for retail is challenging simply because of the inherent purpose of retail buildings. The original LEED programs were designed for office buildings and civic uses, which are essentially spaces for people to work in, and in most cases that implies low-impact activities, such as sitting at a computer or in a meeting room.

Retail is different because the physical space is a tool that the retailer uses to sell its products or services. Retail buildings are designed to maximize accessibility, display the product attractively and provide the customer with a rewarding shopping experience. The number one design concern of the retailer will always be to make their store as attractive as possible to customers, and traditionally that has often meant a brightly-lit store (inside and out) and plenty of heat and air conditioning to make the interior as comfortable as possible. That's not the best recipe for an energy efficient building.

For retail mall owners, the comfort and accessibility of the common areas and parking is equally important. The developer and owner have less ability to influence the behavior of customers, and are shy of imposing any rules or restrictions that could turn customers away. In Marin County, the redeveloped Northgate Mall is aiming to achieve LEED Gold certification. One of the LEED strategies was to provide preferential parking for low emission vehicles. This involved designating 154 spaces that were closest to the mall entries “for low-emitting vehicles”. Shopper confusion and anger was immediate, and the project owner responded by blacking out the signage soon afterwards.

Looking at the individual credit requirements, below are some of the key areas that are different in LEED for Retail.
  • Kitchen equipment. The commercial kitchens that prepare food in cafes, restaurants and grocery stores have a major impact on the sustainability of the building. The operations of these types of retail business are more akin to manufacturing facilities than the passive, low use office, school, residential and civic buildings that LEED grew up on. Meal preparation uses energy and raw materials, and creates waste and emissions. The LEED for Retail guide dedicates a full section to the issue of kitchen equipment, with a schedule of equipment types, efficiency ratings, water use and the ratings required to achieve credits. 
  • Refrigeration units. Similar to the above, the nature of the freezers and large scale coolers used in grocery stores has required the inclusion of specific prescriptive standards within LEED for Retail. 
  • Light pollution. When it comes to outside signage, retailers have received a partial pass from the USGBC: external signage that is internally illuminated is exempt from the light pollution credit. 
  • Special provisions for multi tenant projects. In cases where the project is part of a master planned development, such as a retail strip or shopping center where several stores share common facilities, the new guide recognizes that certain requirements will need to be subject to a master plan for the whole development. Alternative transportation, parking, irrigation and landscaping are among the credit areas that require an overall plan for the whole project. 
  • Daylight and Views. It is not clear how these credits will be interpreted. Retail stores are designed with big widows that should in theory provide access to daylight and views for staff. But those credit points will be of no practical value if the light and views are then blocked by window displays, merchandise and signage. Next time you are shopping in the middle of the day, see if you can find a store that uses natural light instead of artificial. 
The new programs are a welcome addition to LEED. There will certainly be challenges in implementation, but overall, the programs should help to encourage more sustainable practices in the development of retail real estate.

Urban Outfitters - Opening Tuesday 11/23

The store is fitted out, the shelves are stocked, the staff trained and the mannequins are clothed. It'll be a pre-Thanksgiving opening for Urban Outfitters at the Town Center Corte Madera tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New stores spotted in Larkspur

Two new stores have recently popped up on Redwood Highway in Larkspur/Greenbrae. First, the space at Cost Plus Plaza that was vacated by Party America has been filled by Mattress Discounters. Trader Joe's. also took a portion of the space that was adjacent to their store and expanded into it. The remainder was snapped up by the mattress store.

Further north, on the corner of Rich Street, the unit previously occupied by Golf Mart has been taken over by a toy store, going by the name of Toy World. Not sure if the business is connected to Solaria's Toy World in the nearby Bon Air Center, or whether the name is just a coincidence.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New store news: Target, Urban Outfitters and Woodlands Market

In Corte Madera, the new Urban Outfitters store at the Town Center is taking shape. The shell is finished, staff are being recruited, and the store is being fitted out. The photo below shows how the covered walkway has been enveloped within the store footprint.

Over in San Rafael, the debate over the proposed new Target continues to hit the headlines. Last week the San Anselmo Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution in opposition to the development. Then, after a marathon 7-hour meeting, the San Rafael Planning Commission approved the project:
"Our working families need the convenience of economically priced items in one place that doesn't require a trip on the freeway," Chairwoman Maribeth Bushey-Lang said. While "there are a lot of reasons why this is not the ideal location by any stretch of the imagination," job creation, sales tax revenue and convenient shopping outweigh those concerns, she said.

Also last week the Marin IJ reported that downtown Tiburon will be without a grocery store for up to four months after the Boardwalk Market closes at the end of this year. The owners of the Woodlands Market, who are taking over and expanding the space, had been in discussions with the Boardwalk to buy their business and keep the store open through the transition. However, these talks have broken down, and it looks like the store will close while the Woodlands space is built out, with an opening date sometime in April 2011. This is further bad news for Tiburon, which has the worst performing retail sector in Marin. However, this surely is a great opportunity for a quick-moving operator to set up a grocery store in one of the vacant downtown spaces.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Retail sales track 2009, but some cities doing better than others

Sales tax distributions for October indicate that the volume of retail sales in Marin County continues to track that achieved in 2009. Total distributions reported by the State Board of Equalization this month were $1.9m, a slight 1.8% drop from October 2009.

This month, we take a look back to see how much retail sales have fallen over the course of the recession, and how far they have to rise to reach pre-recession levels.

The chart below shows the change in sales tax distributions since June 2008, using a 12-month rolling average index to remove monthly variability. Overall, the County is pulling in just 85% of the sales tax it was generating in 2008. However, there are some notable differences between cities:
  • Fairfax lives up to its reputation as being somewhat disconnected from the rest of the county, having maintained higher levels of sales tax revenues over the last two years, albeit with a decline over recent months at a time when other towns are recovering.
  • Corte Madera was hit quite hard at the beginning of the recession, but has shown the strongest recovery this year, and is my bet for being the first city to break back through 100 on the index. Novato has followed a similar path and is not far behind.
  • Sausalito, Larkspur and San Anselmo were more resilient at the start of the recession, possibly because of their reliance on eateries and local services, but were hit hard in 2009 as residents were hit with job losses and house price declines.
  • San Rafael and Mill Valley are each still below 80% of their pre-recession retail sales. San Rafael accounts for approximately 1/3 of Marin retail sales but has been hit with 1/2 of the county's sales decline. Mill Valley's acute decline is likely connected to its population base, which includes larger numbers of workers in finance, business and other sectors hit with job losses.
  • That leaves Tiburon in last place. Despite being the County's wealthiest town, its retail sector has imploded in the last few years, with sales now at just 66% of their 2008 level. A small retail sector, with a heavy reliance on tourist spending, is likely the reason behind the poor performance.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Marin Gateway is gonna be BIG

The Gateway shopping center in Marin City has been acquired by a joint venture of Developers Diversified and The BIG group. According to a press release, the JV will pay $36 million for the property, comprising $7m in cash and an existing loan of $29m. The center was offered for sale in April by the Bay Area Council.

The BIG Group is based in Israel, where it has developed and owns a series of power centers. And yes, they are quite big, with very big totem signs to announce the fact (photo shows the BIG center at Krayot). BIG already owns several US shopping centers through a joint venture with Kimco, though this is the first transaction for the DDR JV.

The Marin IJ put out a bizarre front page story today suggesting that the Marin City Community Services was hoping to buy the shopping center. Good luck with that.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Positive signs in retail sales

This week saw the release of stronger than expected September retail sales results. There was also a dip in the mall vacancy rate - the first improvement in occupancy for three years. The rash of good news brought forth cautious optimism from several commentators that the retail sector is on the cusp of a period of sustained growth.

In Marin, our own radar on retail performance also surprised us with a strong September result. The 1% retail sales tax distribution to Marin cities for September was the highest since 2007, beating by a fraction both September 2009 and September 2008. This year's figure (the purple line on the chart below) was widely predicted (by me) to fall below 2009 due to the cash for clunkers stimulus that bumped up 2009 retail sales.
It will be interesting to see next month if the momentum can be maintained as we head into the holiday season.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The impact of Target in San Rafael

The proposed Target store at San Rafael was in the news last week as the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce postponed making a decision on whether or not to support the development.

This is a familiar big-box retail situation that has played out across the United States. Typically, the City often favors the development because it creates jobs and provides fiscal benefits from sales taxes. Other retailers and their representatives denounce the effect that the proposal will have on locally-owned independent businesses and the historic downtown and neighborhood stores. And the proponents claim that they will be providing a service that will compete mainly with other big box stores and will allow people to shop locally instead of having to drive to the big box stores and malls in other towns further away.

The Chamber plans to research other communities where Target stores have located. There are many examples where unlimited development of strip malls has killed downtown retail areas, but fewer where the impact of one store is clear cut. Target and Wal-Mart have plenty of experience in making their case in these situations.

A 135,000 sq.ft Target store like the one proposed in San Rafael would probably generate $40m-$50m in annual retail sales. The size of the retail spending market in central and southern Marin in the categories of goods that Target sells is approximately $1 Billion. Often, retail developers will cite growth in retail spending as demonstrating a need for new development. This isn’t the case in Marin, where population growth is less than one percent annually, and retail sales have been in decline as a result of the recession and the longer term growth of internet sales. The new Target’s $40m-$50m annual revenue would instead come from existing spending, which means on average the new store would capture 4%-5% of existing stores’ sales. This average figure represents a fairly minor sales decline that could be considered as being within the normal scope of competitive business. However, the distribution of impact will not be even, but will depend on (1) geography: the closer, the higher the impact, and (2) comparability: customers are more likely to switch from similar stores selling similar products; therefore niche, gourmet and specialty stores are less likely to notice an impact, but department stores and big box mass-market stores would take a larger hit.

Among the retailers in downtown San Rafael, many of the fashion boutiques and niche stores selling gifts and accessories wouldn’t compete directly with Target. The stores selling more generic items, like toys, sports goods, household goods, books, electronics and cds are in more danger of taking a sales hit from Target. And all businesses, including the eateries and health & beauty services that don’t directly compete with Target, will suffer if the new store reduces shopper traffic along Fourth Street.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

NBBJ Real Estate Awards

I see it's time to send in nominations for the Business Journal's "fifth annual 2010 Top Projects Awards" (fifth... 2010...?).

There aren't a lot of Marin contenders (it's been a quiet year). A leading contender in the mixed use category will be the Tamalpais Commons project in Mill Valley (picture below). This higher-density development is the first of several planned for Miller Avenue and is still controversial with many locals who fear increased levels of traffic. I'm not sure whether the residential component is a success, but the retail is a great addition to this part of Miller, adding three new businesses: Dish restaurant, Yolo fro-yo and ToyHouse.
Another Marin mixed-use development that might receive an award is the Millworks project, which houses the new Whole Foods in downtown Novato. The City has been criticized for allowing such a large project. And in terms of design it's just OK. On balance I think it's a worthwhile project, bringing business, jobs and residents to the downtown area.

Northgate Mall probably doesn't qualify, as it opened last year. They did a great job of getting most of the space leased in the midst of the great recession, but I'm not a fan of the design: the inside of the place looks too much like a warehouse. And there are too many small design fails, such as putting the H&M entry right behind this structural column.
Meanwhile, over the street at Northgate One, the new Walgreen is my official entry for "Ugly Building Turning Its Back On The Street" category.
Buy your tickets for the gala awards ceremony now, folks.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Northgate Mall - Victoria's Secret coming soon

Since the renovated Northgate Mall opened at the end of 2009, they've been steadily adding new retailers. I got my first look at the new Forever 21 store at Northgate Mall last weekend.
There's no missing the remodeled mall's identity - it's all about mid market fashion. There's the three department stores for the older generations, and for teens and young adults there's a host of specialty chain stores. In fact, I've never seen such a concentration of almost identical stores next to each other. I'm sure the kids will tell me that Tilly's is nothing like PacSun is nothing like Hot Topic, Forever 21, Buckle, H&M etc... but for me it's all a little repetitive.
Victoria's Secret, which will occupy a large unit at the center of the mall, will certainly add a little complementary variety to the mix

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Target gets a grocery store

I finally got a chance to visit the new grocery store that opened quietly earlier this year - the one inside of Target at Vintage Oaks. I expected to find an expansion of their existing packaged food section with some added fresh food and baked goods. But they have totally moved the food section to one side of the store so it more resembles a market. The expansion is part of a nationwide roll out as Target continues to battle Wal-Mart for market share.

The grocery section was larger than I supposed, with some 10,000 - 12,000 square feet dedicated to food, and set out along 10 short aisles at the far end of the store. The design was as expected, with clean, simple signs, bright displays and well-stocked shelves .
The product mix was also simple, based around packaged goods and mass-market brands. Target's own brands were also on display: Market Pantry is their discount brand, while Archer Farms is the premium alternative. The fresh food section (photo above) was quite small. As you would expect from Target, the emphasis is on price and convenience. There was a lot of processed food on display, though I didn't spot the wall of shredded cheese.

I can't see many people using this as their main grocery store. Traffic was light, with 10-12 people shopping the grocery section. Target is clearly relying on the convenience of picking up some cheap groceries while shopping for other household goods or clothing to make this a productive use of space.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Retail sales still tracking above 2009

Despite the slowdown in the economic recovery and amid warnings of a double-dip recession, 2010 retail sales in Marin have so far kept ahead of 2009 levels for the comparable month. For the year to August, the 1% sales tax distributed to Marin cities was $18.2m, up 3.3% over the same period for 2009.
Next month's figures will be interesting because the September 2009 figures were inflated by cash for clunkers spending from August 2009, as shown by the green line on the chart above, which rose to 2008 levels for that one month before sliding back in October.

Car makers are already reporting their August sales comps look terrible. So it will be no surprise if the Sept. 2010 retail sales number comes in 10%-20% below 2009.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Marin Country Mart exposed

Work continues on the transformation of Larkspur Landing Shopping Center to Marin Country Mart, with the most radical action so far being the chopping down of trees along Sir Francis Drake Blvd, exposing the naked and still rather empty shopping center to the eyes of passing motorists.
The large trees that were removed are to be replaced by smaller Olive trees, two of which have already been positioned in the center of the mall, which is currently closed off while the landscaping is underway.
The center has also now got a new online presence, which is at the moment just a placeholder while we wait for some retailers to arrive. There's also a pretty brochure, which gives a few visual clues to the desired positioning of the center - think Janis Joplin, kids with balloons, Dirty Harry, some cheese and a barber's pole. If that doesn't provide clarity, try the brochure blurb:
Exceptional boutique shopping, neighborhood services & fine foods. A community gathering place with a children’s play area, grassy lawn, raised gardening beds, wishing well, picnic tables & benches, a fire pit & a famous duck pond.
Any ideas who the famous duck is? Donald? Daffy?

The only helpful suggestion I have is to take a look at Napa's Oxbow Market. I think that concept could really work here. Although I do also approve of the idea (shown below) of replacing Sir Francis Drake with a bicycle path. Very Marin.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Montecito Plaza

Montecito Plaza Shopping Center is located on Third Street in East San Rafael and is part of a wider commercial hub that also includes the grocers Whole Foods and United Markets.
The center is over 50 years old and is locally-owned by San Rafael's Seagate Properties. Total retail space is approx. 130,000 sq.ft, anchored by a popular Trader Joe's grocery store, PETCO, and Rite Aid.
The center has a simple timeless layout based on a U-shape set around the car park, with a covered walkway providing sheltered access between the stores. Traffic is good, and since Trader Joe's opened a store in Larkspur last year, it's not impossible to find a parking space.

The retail mix includes everyday convenience stores and services, with a good selection of places to stop and eat or pick up food to go. There are several independent local retailers, such as Mad Rags as well as regional chains (Performance Bikes).
Pinkys Pizza and Cafe Trio are two popular eateries located at the entrance to a courtyard that leads through to the San Rafael canal at the rear of the property. The canal isn't the prettiest piece of water in the world, but it would be nice to see some effort to open up the back of the center and face the water with some restaurants and cafes.
The eastern side of the center is quieter, and includes evening-trade restaurants (Puentez Taqueria, Runi) and lower-volume retailers. Worth looking for is Jasmine Market, a small Mediterranean grocery store.

Overall, there are few vacancies in the center, with exceptions being small units hidden at the corners. Pasta Pomodoro is the highest-profile vacant unit. It's getting harder all the time to find a video store in Marin that hasn't closed, so I was surprised to see Silver Screen Video still open.

Overall, Montecito Plaza is a busy and popular shopping center, with a great location and good tenant mix. Expect to see it remain so for the next 50 years.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summer 2010 update

After a long summer of non-blogging, here's a quick back-to-school update of what's been making headlines in the Marin retail world.

Starting today with a little news story in the Marin IJ about the City of Corte Madera's commercial real estate investment portfolio. Yes, that's right, this small city of approx 9,000 people decided it was a good idea to become a landlord, paying $10m for the Park Madera shopping center at the peak of the market in 2006. Come 2010 and the rent doesn't over the debt service on the city's bond. The city originally purchased the center as a possible site for a new recreation center, however, the recent construction of a new Bank of Marin branch suggests it will remain as a retail center for the foreseeable future.

In Tiburon, the owner of Woodlands Market announced his intention to have the new store in Tiburon open by March 2011. The store will be 12,000 sq.ft, which is larger than the existing Boardwalk Market, which will close before construction starts later this year. The redevelopment will also include the addition of a pharmacy, the first one in Tiburon for several years.

A few photos snapped from around the county:

First, I liked Mi Pueblo, the Hispanic market in San Rafael's Canal neighborhood. Offers a different selection from my usual grocery stores.
Also visited the new Whole Foods at the Alto Center in Mill Valley. Yes, it's expensive, but I do like shopping there: great food and a fun shopping experience.

Over at the Village at Corte Madera there are new Teavana and Brookstone stores, while Martin & Osa and Elegant Living Furniture closed their doors for the last time.
And what are they thinking at Restoration Hardware? The latest refurbishment of their store is in the style of a 13th century European castle, complete with stockade and banqueting hall.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Retail sales back on track (in Marin)

The strength of the consumer recovery had another setback today, as the latest retail sales report showed a decline of 1.2% in May. Department stores, general merchandise, auto sales and gasoline were all below estimates, and analysts pondered over the possible causes, which included the seasonal effect of cooler weather or the lack of growth in employment. Interestingly, online retail sales grew by nearly 16%. Maybe in our focus on the recession we're missing the big picture, which is the structural change in our shopping habits caused by innovations such as iphone shopping apps and the like.

Locally, the news is better. Our monthly update shows that Marin retail sales are higher than they were this time last year. The 1% sales tax distributed to Marin's cities in May 2010 was $2.36m, or 12% above the May 2009 figure. This tax distribution relates to sales that occurred in stores in February - March this year.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Old Town Square Corte Madera

Corte Madera's Old Town Square is located on the western side of Corte Madera, at the intersection of Tamalpais Boulevard and Corte Madera Avenue. As its name suggests, this was the original commercial center for Corte Madera, where stores and other businesses clustered around the train station. The station is long gone and a bike path now follows the railroad tracks through to Larkspur. Menke Park sits in the center of the Old Square and the commercial businesses and stores line the surrounding streets. Marin Nostalgia has a few photos of the train station.
The retailers around the Square include many long-established retailers that serve the local community, plus a few destination businesses that draw people from further away. There's a predominance of hair salons and personal & business services, with just a few stores selling goods, food and drink.
Businesses along Corte Madera Avenue include Stefano's Pizzeria, Passion Flowers, Eat My Cookies and Ricks Wine Cellar.

Next to Menke Park on First Street, there's clothing consignment store Swan Dive, A-Line hair salon and a furniture consignment store: Peterson's Consign & Design. There's also the Marin outlet of The Dailey Method, which is usually packed with Marin Moms after the school drop-off and is possibly the most-visited business on the Square.

One of the oldest buildings is the old horse stables on the Tamalpais Drive side of the Square, which dates from around 1900, and is now occupied by Stellar Spa. Next to it is the only restaurant, Benissimo, the Corte Madera Cafe, and M Clothing. Also on this side is the newest business, Mobile Tech, a computer repair shop that recently moved from its former home further east on Tamalpais Boulevard (which is now being turned into a Bank of Marin branch). Mobile Tech occupies part of the building that was previously Tamalpais Paint and Color. The remainder of this building remains vacant.

Around the corner of Corte Madera Avenue is a laundry and the Twin Cities Market & Deli, which specializes in deli sandwiches and has a selection of Australian wines, beers and candy, courtesy of Les, the Aussie owner.