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Dillard's to convert University Mall store to clearance center

TAMPA — Dillard's Inc. is converting its University Mall store into a clearance center stocked with unsold leftovers from the chain's full-line stores up and down Florida's west coast.

The move comes a month before Dillard's opens a flashy 150,000-square-foot store in the new Shops at Wiregrass that debuts about 10 miles north in Wesley Chapel.

The move further solidifies University Mall's evolution as more of a budget-oriented property. JCPenney left years ago. Macy's is opening a full-line store at Wiregrass too, but has confirmed no plans to leave University.

Festooned with 40 to 75 percent off signs Thursday, the University store recently stopped accepting returns after Dillard's shifted internal control to a different division and promoted Shawn McHugh, who had been an assistant manager in Brandon, to replace Kathy Appleby, who will be store manager at Wiregrass.

"Right now we're liquidating what's there," said Julie Bull, investor relations director for the chain. "But after the transition, this should provide some exciting shopping at exceptional prices."

The store will get several shipments of clearance goods a week.

Only the cosmetics and Coach leather departments will not be priced as clearance goods.

The mall, which got a new owner last year who is spending about $10-million on renovations and improvements, is trying to recruit a moderately priced anchor like Kohl's or Belk. The 34-year-old property next to the University of South Florida main campus remains anchored by Sears, Burlington Coat Factory and Steve & Barry's.

Dillard's, based in Little Rock, Ark., typically makes clearance stores out of weaker-performing locations in times of transition.

The University Mall store will be Dillard's 10th clearance center among 318 stores, and the only one in this region.

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

Dillard's to convert University Mall store to clearance center 09/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2008 7:10pm]
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