Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Business

What's ending Saks' run at Tampa's WestShore Plaza: International Plaza or recession?

When upscale retailer Saks Fifth Avenue opened its fancy WestShore Plaza store in Tampa in 1998, it became a symbol to the region that this metro area was finally growing up — and had the disposable income to prove it.

Move aside, Target and Walmart. Saks, a seasoned and affluent New York retailer, did its own market analysis and decided Tampa Bay was sufficiently wealthy and style conscious to merit one of its stores.

Remember, this was years before Tampa's International Plaza opened, before the Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom department stores arrived.

In the 1990s, not one but two mayors of Tampa wrote letters urging Saks to reconsider a market that, among retailers, had a reputation for informal dress and whose key wealthy spenders were scattered widely across Tampa Bay's waterfront real estate.

On Tuesday, Saks said, in so many words, that this market isn't quite up to snuff. In tight times, there are better markets in Florida worthy of a store — a new Saks soon will open in Sarasota — even as its Tampa location closes May 4 and 105 employees must scramble to find other work.

Dick's Sporting Goods is expected to replace Saks.

"This planned closing is in line with our strategy of using our resources in our most productive Saks Fifth Avenue stores," company CEO Steve Sadove stated.

What did we do wrong? Did Tampa Bay's affluent not spend enough at the local Saks? For many of us who do not frequent the higher fashion scene, Saks sells stuff like designer Dolce & Gabbana dresses for $1,125, Maison Martin Margiela clutches for $1,195, and Jimmy Choo high-top sneakers for $550.

None of these items can be gotten for less at the Family Dollar Store. But most of this stuff can be purchased at nearby International Plaza.

Curiously, back in the 1990s, Saks told us it had studied the Tampa Bay market for a decade before deciding the time was right to open a store.

Back then, the Tampa Bay area also happened to be the largest market in the United States without a Saks.

The arrival of International Plaza in 2001, and its growing success, siphoned off richer shoppers, leaving upmarket Saks by its lonesome in a middle-class mall whose other store anchors are Macy's, JCPenney and Sears.

Another blow was the withering recession that made it ever tougher to woo the fewer locals with substantial shopping budgets to skip IP in favor of West­Shore's Saks.

Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Rohrlack suggests Saks' exit reflects the "never-ending ebb and flow of retail stores" in any market. "Tampa Bay is leading the state in new job creation," he says. "I hope Saks finds a way to get back into this market."

J.P. Morgan analyst Matthew Boss, citing the impact of higher taxes and fiscal turmoil on the wealthy, cut his rating this month on Saks to neutral from overweight.

Saks is not just departing from Tampa Bay. In February, Saks said it will close its store in Stamford, Conn. In January, it targeted its only store in Dallas for closure. Last September, stores in Illinois and Austin, Texas, were named to be shut down.

So Saks has been busy closing more flagship stores than opening them. But last fall, Saks did unveil plans for one new store — far from Florida.

It's in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Q: I have become very disillusioned with my telecommuting job. I accepted this position about a year ago because I liked the idea of working from home. However, I now have so many assignments that I can barely keep up. I was recently given a huge pro...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

DUNEDIN — The Pinellas County Commission pulled the final trigger Tuesday on dedicating $41.7 million in bed taxes for upgrades to the Toronto Blue Jays’ stadium and spring training facilities, a pledge that amounts to covering more than half of the ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida small business owners say their top concern is a lack of skilled workers, according to a recent survey by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Workforce quality has been a recurring issue for small businesses, according to previous surveys. In th...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

TAMPA — The world’s biggest hotel company already has 29 properties in the Tampa Bay area, but its CEO says a plan to put more than 1,400 rooms in three Marriott-branded hotels within a few blocks of each other says something about how Tampa is evolv...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

If you’ve ever complained about other motorists on the road, you may have been justified. The Sunshine State ranked No. 8 on GasBuddy.com’s list of states with the most aggressive drivers."Our findings indicate that states with densely populated citi...
Updated: 12 hours ago
First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

Amazon is taking the growing curb-side delivery trend a step further — now shoppers don’t even have to be inside their cars to get their items.The online retailer announced Tuesday it has begun delivering packages to newer cars with OnStar service in...
Published: 04/24/18
Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

WASHINGTON — The company formerly known as Yahoo is paying a $35 million fine to resolve federal regulators’ charges that the online pioneer deceived investors by failing to disclose one of the biggest data breaches in internet history. The Securiti...
Published: 04/24/18
The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

The ‘most interesting man in the world’ will be tending bar in Tampa on Friday

"Stay thirsty, my friends," the most interesting man in the world is coming to Tampa to tend bar on Friday. Jonathan Goldsmith, the face that launched a thousand memes, will be slinging cocktails at Tampa’s trendy Hall on Franklin, the food hall anno...
Published: 04/24/18
So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

So far, Pasco’s tourism base: Floridians, Canadians

NEW PORT RICHEY – The typical tourist in Pasco County this year most likely is a Floridian.But there are lots of Canadians here as well. Nearly 80 percent drove, rather than flew, to the region. Forty percent stayed in hotels, but more than a quarter...
Published: 04/24/18
Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

Girls hockey could replace boys lacrosse on Pasco tourism calendar

NEW PORT RICHEY – Hockey pucks could replace lacrosse balls as the required sports equipment for the holiday tourism season in Wesley Chapel.The Wickenheiser World Female Hockey Festival, founded by Canadian hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, is seek...
Published: 04/24/18