Valley Mall Operators Pursue Luxury Stores In Underserved Area

By SHELLY GARCIA
San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Some of the tonier names in retailing are looking to expand along the 101 Corridor, and several different developers are scrambling to get their attention.

Westfield America, Macerich Co. and Selleck Development Group are all believed to be in talks with Nordstrom Inc., Neiman Marcus Group or both in a kind of beauty contest made all the more competitive because these high-fashion retailers open only a small number of stores each year.

"We purchased The Oaks Mall last year with the intention of trying to remodel and expand it," Randy Brant, a Macerich senior vice president, said of the shopping center in Thousand Oaks. "We felt that the project did not keep up with the growth of the market, both in quality and quantity, and we are talking to fashion retailers not represented in the market."

Macerich officials declined to specify the retailers they have targeted, but the names Nordstrom and Neiman's were both mentioned at meetings the company held with community residents late in April to discuss the expansion.

Westfield is shopping for another anchor store as part of a major expansion and renovation at Shoppingtown Topanga in Canoga Park. It has set up tables there inviting customers to complete comment cards that say, "Yes!" in bold, red letters. "I want Neiman Marcus to open at Westfield Shoppingtown Topanga."

"We're working to redevelop the center and what you have is a marketing tool to determine interest levels in the marketplace," said Catherine Dickey, a Westfield spokeswoman.

Others point out that such efforts go beyond the usual scope of research. "They're pulling out all the stops," said Richard Giss, a partner with the retail service group of Deloitte & Touche LLP, when told of Westfield's campaign. "They're sending a real strong message, we want you here, and they are trying to build their case."

Westfield and Nordstrom have just reached an agreement to expand the retailer's Topanga center store, now within the enclosed mall, into a separate, three-story building of 200,000 square feet, 30 percent larger than the space it currently occupies.

Officials at both Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus say they do not comment on new store plans until firm agreements have been reached. But brokers in the market say that both retailers have been investigating the region because of its attractive demographics.

The average income of shoppers at The Oaks Mall, for example, is $109,468; $83,000 for Shoppingtown.

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