ARCHIVED  October 1, 1996

National retailers descend on region

It’s been happening in Fort Collins for several years. Now it’s starting to take place in other Front Range cities.National retailers – for a variety of reasons – have discovered Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming. No, we’re not talking Sax Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom’s, but we are talking Dillard’s, Chili’s, Barnes & Noble and maybe Home Depot.
“By and large, the attitude of the retailers is that they are embracing markets like Greeley and looking to direct their attention out of the big cities to fill their expansion plans,´ said Steve Yeager, senior leasing manager for MaceRich Co., owner of the Greeley Mall.
Yeager says population growth in the region is just a small reason why national retailers are interested. He cites stability, demographics and disposable income as the three main draws.
Lyle Butler, president of the Greeley/Weld Chamber of Commerce, however, says population is important.
“Certain businesses won’t look at you till you’re 40,000, 60,000, 75,000 or 100,000,” Butler said. “As Greeley grows, we’re going to find more and more national chains located here.” Butler says Greeley’s population, now estimated at 67,000, is expected to be more than 115,000 in the year 2015.
When Wal-Mart and Kmart both opened superstores in Greeley about two years ago, other retailers began to take a serious look at the community, Butler said. A number of national and regional restaurants have since opened, including Perkins, Chili’s and Applebee’s. And all are doing well.
Ed Fickes, manager of commercial sales and leasing at Wheeler Management Group, says announcements such as State Farm Insurance Co. opening a new division with 204 new good-paying jobs entices new retailers to look at the area.
“Some come because they think they can make money, some come because they’re jumping on the band wagon. If it’s good enough for Chili’s, then it’s good enough for Applebees …” Fickes said.
If you want to talk restaurants, then spend a Friday night in Fort Collins, where, no matter how many new restaurants open, you can still expect a healthy wait for a table.
“Fort Collins has a high eat-out rate,´ said Rhys Christiensen, a partner in Realtec Commercial Real Estate Services Inc., accounting for the high number of restaurants in the 100,000-plus city. Fort Collins, he adds, keeps separate records of restaurant retail sales-tax collections, which enables potential newcomers to see the trends and determine whether they would be a good fit.
“The growth in retail sales (in Fort Collins) goes up every year,” Christiensen said, citing such demographics as an average age lower than most cities, a high number of owner-occupied homes and a “decent income level” that attract national chains to Fort Collins. REI located a few years ago because of those very demographics. Barnes & Noble opened its doors within the last year, and now Home Depot is considering a store in Fort Collins.
Yet Fort Collins’ requirements for development makes it difficult for some retailers to locate in that city. The Harmony Road Corridor Plan, for example, stipulates that stores must have multiple entrances, parking on all sides and extensive landscaping. “Some stores won’t come as a result of that. Others will and comply with it,” Christiensen says. Wal-Mart, for example, had planned a superstore on Harmony a few years ago, and has since shelved those plans – for now.
Though retailers continue to take a serious look at Fort Collins, Mike Hauser, president of the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce, says he doesn’t expect a “huge influx (of national chains) in the future. It’s my understanding that a lot of the chains are not in a feeding frenzy, jumping to open new markets.”
The high number of national/regional stores in Fort Collins, Hauser concedes, makes it “very difficult for the local retailer.” But that doesn’t mean entrepreneurs have given up trying. Hauser says Fort Collins issues about 1,000 new sales tax permits each year. Over the past three years, however, 2,500 have since closed up shop.
“Fort Collins will always have a high turnover rate. The ones that recognize – this is my opinion – the importance of customer service and recognize the importance of effective marketing seem to be doing very well and are very competitive. Those who decide to only be price competitive don’t do very well.”
Retailers along the Front Range have the added impact of the Loveland Outlet Mall. Pat Farnham, executive director of the Loveland Chamber of Commerce, says the mall is doing well, but has had little impact on drawing national retailers further toward the core of the city. And, she adds, she doesn’t expect it to happen any time soon. “We’re within 15 minutes of national and regional chains located in Fort Collins, Estes Park, Longmont and Greeley.”
Boston Market, for example, recently closed in Loveland to reopen in Greeley. “They felt they were too close to Boston Market in Fort Collins.” Loveland, population 43,000, will continue to focus on specialized retailers, such as the art galleries, small restaurants with ambiance and themes, she says.
The big news along the Front Range is the opening of Dillard’s in Longmont and Cheyenne in the CBL-owned Twin Peaks and Frontier Malls. “We’ve been working with Dillard’s for five years; we’ve had a close corporate relationship,” says Jodee McClure, marketing director at Cheyenne’s Frontier Mall.
The March opening for the 80,000-square-foot Cheyenne store has already lured other retailers to the mall, she says, including Bath ‘n Body Works, Victoria’s Secret and Limited Express.
Brian O’Hanlon, president of the Longmont-Area Chamber of Commerce, predicts other national retailers will begin to take a serious look at his city now that Dillard’s will be opening its second Colorado store in Longmont (Park Meadows being the first). “Retailers are sophisticated in their marketing. I suspect Dillard’s decision will pique the interest of others.”
He also says there has been “an explosion of restaurant chains” opening up in Longmont. Applebees, Boston Market and the Colorado Grill have all opened restaurants, and a number of others are looking.
Why? O’Hanlon says Longmont, population 57,000, has a lot going for it. “Demographically, 80502 is a lucrative market, from an income standpoint.”
Lucrative for both national and local retailers. “The Longmont economy is expanding at a much faster rate than the Longmont population.” Sales taxes, for example, are growing by 9 percent annually. What those numbers reflect, he says, are the number of residents who shop Longmont first. “It may be that driving to Nelson and Hover in Longmont is easier than going to the Hill or Crossroads Mall in Boulder. Shoppers are starting to make those kind of decisions.” And, Longmont is seeing more people from the surrounding area doing their shopping in their city. “We’re becoming a regional shopping hub.”
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It’s been happening in Fort Collins for several years. Now it’s starting to take place in other Front Range cities.National retailers – for a variety of reasons – have discovered Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming. No, we’re not talking Sax Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom’s, but we are talking Dillard’s, Chili’s, Barnes & Noble and maybe Home Depot.
“By and large, the attitude of the retailers is that they are embracing markets like Greeley and looking to direct their attention out of the big cities to fill their expansion plans,´ said Steve Yeager, senior leasing manager for MaceRich Co.,…

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