April 13, 2007

Retailers keep growing in Boulder Valley

Several local and national retailers are expanding their stores in the Boulder Valley – a sign of good profits, or a change in strategy.

Recreational Equipment Inc.’s expansion at 1789 28th St. in Boulder is mixture of both.

The outdoor gear and apparel retailer is doubling its space to 42,000 square feet, and plans to debut a new prototype store.

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“It’s a very successful store, and customers have been asking us for a larger product line,´ said Megan Behrbaum, public affairs manager for Seattle-based Recreational Equipment Inc., or REI. “We’ll use that extra space to test out some new concepts both in green building and a greater emphasis on interaction with the community.”

Some of the green features will include solar tubular lighting, which will provide about 25 percent of the store’s daytime illumination. Solar energy will be incorporated into the hot-water system, and other sustainable materials will be used.

Focusing on the customer, REI will dedicate more space to demonstrations and outdoor-related presentations. Another community area will focus on local trails and activities. Much of this space will be at the front of the store, Behrbaum said.

Construction began in early March and is expected to be complete by this fall. The project is priced at $673,000, according to city documents.

In Longmont, the closing of ShopKo spelled opportunity for J.C. Penney. Penney, a longtime anchor at Twin Peaks Mall, took the opportunity to double in size when Green Bay, Wis.-based ShopKo Stores Inc. closed its three Colorado stores.

While the 100-year-old Dallas-based retail giant wasn’t anticipating a move, when the opportunity became available it took it.

“Penney is actively looking at sites all the time,´ said Mark Haynes, manager of the Longmont store. “Some of the factors are when a building comes available. The ShopKo came available and became a prospect, and on top of that Penney’s location in an aging mall created an opportunity.”

In addition to size – about 105,000 square feet – the new location in the St. Vrain Centre has other advantages, Haynes said.

The stand-alone location lets Penney set its hours without being obligated to keep the same hours as a mall. The store opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 10 p.m.

“We have two more hours every day out of the week,” Haynes said.

The larger store carries many more lines of merchandise including Liz and Co., Mixit, Bisou Bisou, maternity wear, women’s suits and a “10-fold increase” in shoes, Haynes said. It now has a portrait studio, custom in-home decorating and fine jewelry.

It also employs more than three times as many employees, increasing from 38 to 140.

In Boulder, the opening of the Twenty Ninth Street retail district attracted MontBell and Borders to make the move from Pearl Street.Japan-based MontBell increased the size of its U.S. retail flagship store from 4,500 square feet to 7,000 square feet. The biggest difference and advantage is that the store is now on one floor, said MontBell Public Relations Manager Scott Guenther.

“It creates more exposure for some products that used to be hidden downstairs,” he said. Business has been about the same.

“On Pearl Street we had a steady stream of tourists and window shoppers coming into the store,” Guenther said. “I think we’re missing out on some of that tourist traffic now, but we’re seeing a more purposeful customer who can come down, park for free and shop. In the long run, I think we’ll see increased traffic as Twenty Ninth Street grows.”

Guenther said the store is working to increase its visibility – both from 28th Street and the retail district’s main walkway along 29th Street.

At the new Borders location, the space hasn’t increased, but “sales and customer count are up substantially,´ said Bill Golliher, Borders’ district marketing manager for Northern Colorado and Montana. “The opportunity for the Twenty Ninth Street mall was so overwhelmingly positive from the aspects of parking and access.” The new location has a much better view – the cafÇ on the second floor overlooks the Flatirons.

Golliher said the cafÇ has become a gathering place for employees of other Twenty Ninth Street tenants. “We’re seeing small employee meetings before stores open.”

Despite being wooed by FlatIron Crossing and Twenty Ninth Street, Fresh Produce is staying put on the Pearl Street Mall. The 21-year-old Boulder-based sportswear manufacturer is “renewing its commitment to Pearl Street” by remodeling its flagship store.

“We’re passionate about supporting the community, and Pearl Street is the heart and soul of Boulder,” President Thom Vernon said.

The new store design, featuring an orange and red palette with a cottage feel, will be rolled out in more of the 15 Fresh Produce storefronts nationwide.

 Part of the Pearl Street renovation includes better use of the existing 2,400 square feet, Vernon said. The back room has been opened in order to make room for new merchandise, including furniture.

Remodeling was in order to make the store “more fun,” Vernon said. “We’ve got more than just Fresh Produce. It’s more of a fun store with more than just clothing.”

Vernon isn’t concerned about vacancies on Pearl Street when he sees new tenants moving in. Quicksilver is moving into the space vacated by Active Endeavors and Blue Skies is moving from 9th Street to the 1100 block of Pearl.

He also doesn’t worry about new shopping opportunities. “It’s no surprise Twenty Ninth Street had an initial effect on the mall, but Pearl Street is still the place to be.”

Several local and national retailers are expanding their stores in the Boulder Valley – a sign of good profits, or a change in strategy.

Recreational Equipment Inc.’s expansion at 1789 28th St. in Boulder is mixture of both.

The outdoor gear and apparel retailer is doubling its space to 42,000 square feet, and plans to debut a new prototype store.

“It’s a very successful store, and customers have been asking us for a larger product line,´ said Megan Behrbaum, public affairs manager for Seattle-based Recreational Equipment Inc., or REI. “We’ll use that extra space to test out some new concepts both in green…

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