Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Epicenter Dreams: A Lucky Winner

(continued from Page One)

Many of these locations were snapped up by retailers who had little presence in the area. JCPenney snatched up a vacant Filene's while Boscov's grabbed a variety of local Pennsylvania malls. Nordstrom promised to build a store at Cherry Hill Mall replacing Strawbridge & Clothier. Still others would remain vacant until they were razed for lifestyle additions, which unfortunately didn't seem to really "match" with the mall.

Prior to the main buyout, a relatively new mall, Polaris Fashion Place had both Lazarus and Kaufmann's. It also had Lord & Taylor but was lucky enough to get it replaced with Von Maur. It would have had seven anchors: Lazarus-Macy's, Kaufmann's, Von Maur, Sears, JCPenney, Saks Fifth Avenue, and The Great Indoors (an interiors-oriented concept owned by Sears). Except Kaufmann's was closing.

So an innovative idea from the minds behind the Forum Shops at Caesars (Gordon Groups Holding) proposed a lofty idea: the EPICENTER COLLECTION, designed to be an "Internet catalog showroom". The space would be sub-leased to Internet retailers that could display items including sporting goods, fashion, cosmetics, electronics, and gourmet foods. Very similar to a department store, in fact. Consumers would receive a BUYpod (hmm...that sounds like something else) and register their credit card number. Then it would be a simple job of scanning items to be delivered. Some were even on-site. Columbus shoppers would get to try this innovative process before Epicenter Collection rolled it out nationally. Epicenter predicted various vacancies from the Federated/May merger and the Sears/Kmart merger, leaving positions nationwide to expand.

Epicenter pursued companies that had a good web base but little to no bricks-and-mortar presence: Omaha Steaks, Kiehl's, Bose, Levenger, American Girl, Home Shopping Network, Babystyle and L.L. Bean.

What a plan! But the deal fell through and Kaufmann's would become a lifestyle center instead. Too bad: it now wasn't possible to find slacks at Macy's and pick up a New York strip steak in the same building. At least in Columbus it wasn't. The story wasn't over, however...for Epicenter Collection would bring their dog-and-pony show to the Philadelphia area next.

Part III: The Dream Ends

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