http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/07/26/keeping-stoneridge-mall-ahead-of-the-competition


Pleasanton Weekly

Column - July 26, 2013

Keeping Stoneridge Mall ahead of the competition

by Jeb Bing

The July 19 edition of The Economist magazine highlights a story titled: "The emporium strikes back." The article about how retailers are finding ways to adapt to shoppers who are increasingly buying merchandise online fails to mention Pleasanton's Stoneridge Shopping Center as a leader in combining the advantages of shopping in brick and mortar stores with the convenience of buying online.

The Simon Property Group, headquartered in Indianapolis, owns Stoneridge and also acquired the Livermore Outlets from Paragon shortly after it was opened. Simon is an S&P 100 company and a leader in the global retail real estate industry. The company currently owns or has an interest in 326 retail real estate properties in North America and Asia as well as shopping centers in 13 European countries. With more than 5,500 employees, it's not about to abandon ship to Amazon.com or other Internet competitors. In fact, its stores are combining the best of both, encouraging shoppers to scan the merchandise categories that interest them and then come into the stores to pick up the items they've ordered or see more options.

The strategy is paying off with store relocations, renovations and new store openings giving Stoneridge Mall one of its busiest years ever. Among the new stores opened this year, all with online shopping connections, is White House/Black Market, with its 3,283 square-foot boutique. Clark's opened in March and Pandora Jewelry in April. lululemon athletica (which uses no capital letters in its name), a popular yoga-clothing retailer, will open its first location in the Tri-Valley area before Christmas.

LOFT, which sells women's apparel, is opening in the old Lane Bryant space, which is now open in its new location on the upper level near Nordstrom. The PINK store, which uses all caps in its name, will debut later this summer, and Spencer's Gifts will join the upper level outside of JCPenney in early fall. Construction of Kids Foot Locker has also started with the store expected to open this fall.

Other stores may seem new but are just operating in a new space. Forever 21 expanded into a new two-level, 21,000-square-foot space near Macy's Women's store in March. On the lower level, Torrid relocated in February near Nordstrom, and Sports Fever expanded into a new space near near Penney's in May.

Shoppers can also expect to see some additional changes for current retailers. Victoria's Secret is undergoing a complete renovation in its current space, which is open during construction, and is expected to be completed later this summer. Aveda and Select Comfort have both relocated to the lower level near Penney's, while Sunglass Hut is expected to open a new store on the upper level near Banana Republic in early August.

Sad to say, about the only major expansion Simon has yet to win is Nordstrom, which has postponed several times its plans to build a new 144,000-square-foot department store in front of its aging facility at Stoneridge. More shoppers are driving to Nordstrom's larger, more upscale store in Walnut Creek, taking not only business away from Stoneridge but also the sales taxes that Nordstrom customers pay. Sales taxes, which have seen an uptick in Pleasanton, remain fairly static at Stoneridge.

That's why it was welcome news last month when Simon asked the city to extend its development agreement until 2017 to add another 362,790 square feet to the Pleasanton center, an approval already granted along with the needed environmental endorsements so that work on the expansion could begin at any time. A larger mall with more upscale stores, services and restaurants is needed to meet the Tri-Valley's increasing population and its geographic location as a highway and public transportation center.

While online commerce has grown, The Economist points out that shopping is about entertainment as well as acquisition. While computer screens can bewitch the eye, good shops can appeal to many more of the shopper's senses. Simon will need to keep expanding its brick and mortar properties in the Tri-Valley to stay ahead of competition, whether from the Internet or other Bay Area shopping attractions.

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