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Columns

Macy's caters to munchies

By MARK ALBRIGHT
Published April 25, 2007


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Macy's is stepping into the quick-serve food business with in-store shops stocked with sandwiches, salads, soups and gelato created by celebrity chefs such as Wolfgang Puck and Todd English.

Six restaurants including one Puck's Gourmet Express plus the first eight so-called Macy's Taste Bars will appear in some of the 60 Macy's stores across Florida. Dates and locations have not been identified.

It's a bit of an about-face for Macy's owners who closed the last of their full-service, sit-down Suncoast Restaurants in Tampa Bay stores years ago when the stores were Burdines.

These are the size of a Subway.

"We're creating a place for shoppers to rest and refresh, and another point of differentiation for us," said Tom Cole, vice chairman of Macy's parent. "We have to keep changing to make department stores more interesting."

No kidding. Consider the next blurring of brand name boundaries. Moderately priced Kohl's and JCPenney are each about to launch Ralph Lauren Home lines. It's a brand name more familiar to upper mid-level department stores like Macy's and Dillard's. Meanwhile, Macy's is working up new home lines for a major fall launch of home goods from discount store doyenne Martha Stewart.

Mall won't open in '08

Eager outlet mall shoppers will have to keep driving to Ellenton or Orlando.

A year ago, Chelsea Property Group, the outlet center unit of mall giant Simon Property Group, signed up to put a 120-store outlet mall at State Road 52 and Interstate 75. They hoped to be open as soon 2008.

Not gonna happen.

"We are very actively working the project, but it's already too late to open by 2008, and we don't yet have a date after that," said Michelle Rothstein, spokeswoman for Chelsea.

That's partly because the center, part of a larger mixed-use project called Pasco Town Center, has yet to emerge from the government permit mill. Besides, Chelsea, which opens one or two new outlet centers a year, has seven new ones in its construction pipeline including the Pasco project.

Chelsea, however, is going ahead with a 118,000-square-foot expansion and parking garage for its popular Orlando Premium Outlets near Walt Disney World. That wing opens in summer 2008.

Green wannabes

Many retailers tried to paint themselves greener by celebrating Earth Day.

Home Depot, for instance, labeled 2,500 items as earth-friendly alternatives. Lowe's promoted its new lines of organic pesticides, fertilizers and cleaning supplies.

Perhaps the strangest event, however, was by Westfield Group, which dimmed the lights by 50 percent inside its regional malls at 3 p.m. Saturday for 30 minutes.

That was supposed to be a "symbolic gesture" that the owner of these temples of consumption is committed to such things as recycling, conserving water, reducing the power bill and replacing light bulbs with compact fluorescent and LED fixtures.

In the Tampa Bay area, Westfield mall shoppers in Brandon, Citrus Park and Countryside may have missed it. Lights inside most stores beamed on at full blast. In most of the food courts and common areas, daylight streamed through skylights.

Westfield boasted that 4,500 pounds of greenhouse gases were not released into the atmosphere at its 60 malls in the United States during the interlude. Then the lights went back on full power.

And the point was?

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

[Last modified April 24, 2007, 22:52:07]


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