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WestShore gears up to cater to customers

At WestShore Plaza, you can leave your purchases at the store and have them delivered to your door. By Jaguar.

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 19, 2002

Picture this, shoppers: You've sprinted through lunch hour at WestShore Plaza, arms sagging beneath bags of Godiva, Lancome, Hilfiger and Lauren. In minutes, you're expected back at the office.

Do you: A) Leave the chocolate in the hot Honda for the afternoon? or B) Ask your driver to carry it home in the Jag.

No driver? That's what you think.

WestShore is offering free delivery of merchandise these days, via silver or red Jaguars. There's no minimum purchase required.

The service, which kicked off over the holidays, is an effort by mall officials to cater to office workers who like to power shop at lunch.

It's not, they insist, an effort to compete with tony International Plaza, which opened its doors in September.

"We would have done it with or without International Plaza," says marketing director Kimberly Osborne.

Osborne says the mall is trying to make life easier for time-starved shoppers.

Another new service: bag checking.

"When you have too many bags, it's awful. It makes you want to go home," Osborne says. "This way, if you buy a lamp at Bombay and you want to go eat dinner, you don't have to carry it."

Although the mall's customer base reflects varied income levels, exclusive merchandise is on the rise, Osborne says.

WestShore's owners recently announced the opening of a 3,000-square-foot leather goods store, El Portal, later this spring. The Minneapolis-based company has been around since 1936 and is owned by Wilson's Leather Group. It will feature travel and business accessories by Coach, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Bahama, DNY and other designers and will sit opposite Banana Republic and next to Brookstone.

A 7,000-square-foot PF Chang's China Bistro will soon open its first Tampa digs at WestShore, near Maggiano's Little Italy and the Palm restaurants.

Additionally, two high-end in-store boutiques are scheduled to open later month: Gucci and Prada will open 200-square-foot shops in Saks Fifth Avenue, offering expanded lines of handbags, belts and small leather goods.

If WestShore is flirting with wealthy singles, it is also courting families.

"We cater to the Tampa Bay area, which has lots of families. And they're our customers," Osborne says.

"Our store mix -- Gymboree, Stride Rite -- clearly mirrors the market."

From 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, the mall will kick off its first-ever "Mommy and Me," a joint effort between the mall and YMCA for toddlers and preschool age children. The biweekly program, which will be held in the new Cartoon Corner, offers free, supervised child care for moms craving their own little timeout.

The play area is just outside the site of the new Sears store, which is expected to open in October.

The mall is also playing host to an exhibit of 35 sea turtles painted by local artists. On April 27, kids can paint their own turtles in the mall's center court. The supervised craft session, $10 per child, will be from noon to 2 p.m, with proceeds benefitting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

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