Mall changes target young, hip shoppers

For consumers, it's a `fresh face'

March 03, 2006|By LAUREN SCOTT | LAUREN SCOTT,SUN REPORTER

Starting in the fall, 17-year-old Patty Manutsathit no longer will have to travel to Arundel Mills mall to shop at a store where she finds the latest styles in clothing.

H&M, the European-fashion-inspired store known for its trendy merchandise, is coming to The Mall in Columbia.

"H&M has cute clothes," said Manutsathit, of Highland and a twice-a-week shopper at The Mall in Columbia. "It's good [to have an H&M] because then we have more places to shop."

Asa Williams, The Mall in Columbia's marketing manager and an H&M shopper, said the mall's new tenant is a good fit with the existing stores, especially Forever 21 and bebe.

"We're excited to add H&M, and we know that it speaks highly to that young, hip, up-to-the-minute shopper," Williams said. "There will be a female and male component, so it addresses not only the female shopper, but gives the guys another casual option when they're shopping with us."

The H&M addition is one of a number of changes the mall will undergo this year, including Hecht's department store becoming a Macy's by June. An Apple store is scheduled to open in early summer on the upper level near Hecht's, and a MAC Cosmetics store is slated to open in April, next to Bose on the upper level.

H&M will be where the former women's fashion store Casual Corner and the Bank of America used to be on the lower level between JCPenney and Champs sporting goods. Champs has just started remodeling and will be downsizing to allow more space for H&M, which will fill 14,500 square feet. Champs' remodeling is expected to be completed in June, said Karen Geary, the mall's senior general manager.

Geary could not be specific about H&M's opening date - "construction sometimes can be challenging to predict," she said - but she estimates it to be in early fall.

Victoria's Secret will be moving from its lower-level location across the aisle between Champs and Kokopelli. The current 5,600-square-foot Victoria's Secret will nearly double in size to 10,000 square feet. It will open in May and include a larger beauty-product section.

Bath & Body Works and Laila Rowe, a women's accessories store, will split Victoria's Secret's current space. Bath & Body Works will get the majority of the space, while Laila Rowe will occupy 1,100 square feet.

Another store on the move is Aeropostale, which will open in May near the food court, between Finish Line and The Limited.

Geary said the mall's management has not decided on a store to fill Aeropostale's current space, between Aldo and Godiva on the lower level.

The mall management holds two to three formal meetings a year and engages in "constant conversation" on how to find space for new stores, while also changing the look of existing stores to keep a "fresh face" for consumers, Geary said.

"It is very similar to putting a puzzle together, only we have the opportunity to fit the puzzle pieces in different locations," said Geary, who said the mall is at almost 100 percent capacity. "We want to find the best location for the customer as well as for the retailer."

Management offers tenants three-, five-, seven- and 10-year leases, Geary said. To predict space availability, management works on a schedule that looks five years ahead, and it updates the plan each year, Geary said.

"We really look at is as a big picture," she said.

When Bank of America moved outside the mall next to L.L. Bean in early January and Casual Corner closed later that month, the management had the opportunity to choose from a list of prospective tenants, including Coldwater Creek, to occupy the space as soon as possible. H&M, which has six stores in the Baltimore-Washington area, came out on top.

"We're fortunate here in Columbia because it is an extraordinary market economically," Geary said.

lauren.scott@baltsun.com

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