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Racking up the customers

Nordstrom is likely to boost Empire Center business, econ professor says.

March 13, 2010|By Zain Shauk

AIRPORT DISTRICT — Stores at the Burbank Empire Center could be in for a surge of consumer traffic once a Nordstrom Rack opens there this year, experts said.

Nordstrom Inc. announced plans Tuesday to open the store at the former site of Linens ’N Things, filling a 35,351-square-foot vacancy between T.J. Maxx and Marshalls.

The store is set to open Oct. 21, said Colin Johnson, a spokesman for Nordstrom.

“We just felt like, with this opportunity that came forward at Burbank Empire Center, it was a great chance for us to get to work on earning more of our customer’s business there,” Johnson said.

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Nordstrom Rack is the discount chain for the high-end, Seattle-based retailer, carrying products from Nordstrom and nordstrom.com that have been marked down by 50% to 60%, according to the company.

The store will be a good fit for the Empire Center, which is home to Costco, Target, Best Buy and other retailers that emphasize discount offerings, experts said.

“Adding Nordstrom Rack just gives it one more lower-cost outlet store there that will attract probably more people to use the other services that they are offering,” said William Roberts, director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center at Cal State Northridge.

The addition of a Nordstrom store could also have more of a draw than other discount retailers, said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Assn.

“Everybody wants Nordstrom,” Waldman said. “All the communities, when they talk about a mall, they always ask about Nordstrom, and a Nordstrom Rack is still Nordstrom clothing — it’s high-end clothing.”

Solidifying a new tenant for the second of two large vacancies at the Empire Center was a major step for retail in the area, Deputy City Manager Joy Forbes said.

Shoe Pavilion and Linens ’N Things left behind a combined 60,000 square feet of vacant retail space in the shopping mall.

“It never looks good to have those vacancies,” Forbes said. “That center doesn’t pride itself on being a pedestrian-friendly center, but when you have those big, vacant storefronts, then for sure people don’t want to walk from one store to the next. You don’t want to walk past a big, empty storefront.”

T.J. Maxx filled the Shoe Pavilion vacancy in November, and the new Rack store will close the remaining gap, she said.

“We’re excited,” Forbes said. “We think it’s a great store for Burbank.”

The two filled vacancies are also an indicator of a strong regional consumer base that retailers believe will be active enough to sustain new locations, Waldman said.

“Retailers are projecting that sales are significant enough to cover the rent and to make a profit, so I think that’s a good thing, and I’m optimistic that we’ll see a lot more vacancies being filled,” he said.

Nordstrom has 185 stores in 28 states, including 70 Nordstrom Racks.

The company plans to open another Los Angeles-area Rack location this year in Lakewood, as well as Nordstrom stores in the renovated Santa Monica Place and Newport Beach’s Fashion Island, Johnson said.


Get in touch ZAIN SHAUK covers business and politics. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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