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VOL. 121 | NO. 4 | Friday, December 23, 2005

Retailers Brace for New Mall's Impact

Carriage Crossing drives new retail traffic to Collierville

LINDA RAITERI | The Daily News

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BUSINESS IMPACT: Retailers on Collierville's town square have mixed opinions about the effect Carriage Crossing will have on business. Many hope it will drive new traffic to the square. -- Photograph By Linda Raiteri

For shoppers in the Collierville area, having the $100 million Avenue Carriage Crossing next door is a real boon.

Residents don't have to drive to Saddle Creek anymore to see the latest styles offered by Chico's. They can bring Fido upscale treats from Just Dogs! Gourmet. The proximity of Linens 'n Things precludes a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond near Wolfchase Galleria.

New to Memphis. At the retail center's October grand opening, thousands of curious residents crowded the new open-air mall. They strolled the winding sidewalks, tried out the benches and children's play areas and surveyed the village-like layout of the shopping center. They also checked out retail establishments new to the Memphis area, such as Parisian and White House/Black Market.

Carriage Crossing developer Cousins Properties Inc. noted that the mall serves an estimated population of 248,152 within a 10-mile radius. The estimated average income for this group is $86,888, about twice the 2003 median income for Shelby County.

The question is: What effect is the lifestyle center having on established retail venues?

Facing the competition. Cordova resident Andrea Hand began her job as administrative assistant at the Collierville Chamber of Commerce during the flurry of activity generated by the opening of The Avenue Carriage Crossing in October. Hand fielded calls from as far away as Jackson, Miss., and even Missouri about the 786,000-square-foot lifestyle center.

And although she prefers the restaurants and the village-like atmosphere of Carriage Crossing, she is not giving up her shopping trips to Wolfchase Galleria, where her favorite store, Macy's, is located.

"Usually after the kids get out of school for the holiday break, families come to the historic square ... But last Saturday, they weren't here. It was a really slow day for the Saturday before Christmas. I asked a friend, who said that Carriage Crossing was very busy."
- Judy Fricke
owner, Banbury Cross, and president, Collierville Historic District Merchants' Association

Continued strength for Wolfchase. Simon Property Group owns Wolfchase Galleria, where many Collierville residents have shopped since its 1997 opening. According to the mall's corporate spokesman, Les Morris, success is all about the choices a retail center offers consumers. The Indianapolis-based real estate investment trust owns or has an interest in 300 U.S. properties and is the largest publicly traded retail real estate company in North America.

Morris reported that traffic in Simon Property Group's properties nationwide is consistent with last year.

"Our Wolfchase Galleria mall manager reports that there has been no appreciable drop in traffic since the opening of Carriage Crossing," Morris said. "Santa is really busy."

Meaning traffic is good.

Smaller retailers. At the 3-year-old The Perfect Setting in Collierville's historic town square, sales are up 30 percent over last year. According to manager/designer Tim Miller, Carriage Crossing has brought more people to the square, actually increasing sales for its store owners.

"Carriage Crossing and the historic square offer different types of merchandise," Miller said.

The Perfect Setting, for example, specializes in antique reproductions and custom upholstered furniture, custom floral design and home accessories. For Miller, Carriage Crossing's main attraction is the variety of clothing stores.

But for Judy Fricke, owner of children's clothing and toy store Banbury Cross, also on the town square, it's a different story. GapKids/Baby Gap, Gymboree and The Children's Place at Carriage Crossing are among her direct competitors.

Unlike smaller retailers, Fricke said, the three corporations could calculate the risk of siphoning off traffic from their other Memphis-area locations - in Saddle Creek and Wolfchase - and balance it with increased sales from the Collierville/North Mississippi area.

Feeling the impact. Fricke, an independent retailer and president of the Collierville Historic District Merchants' Association, is a New England native who moved to Collierville nearly 14 years ago. She has owned Banbury Cross for five and a half years and said the Saturday before Christmas, she definitely began to feel the impact of Carriage Crossing.

"Usually after the kids get out of school for the holiday break, families come to the historic square," she said. "They take pictures. It's a special time. But last Saturday, they weren't here. It was a really slow day for the Saturday before Christmas. I asked a friend, who said that Carriage Crossing was very busy."

Banbury Cross carries puppets, wooden trains, dolls, musical instruments and other children's playthings, in addition to children's clothes.

"All our toys are imagination-powered," Fricke said. "The competition isn't over the items; competition is for the dollar bill.

"It scares me, but it won't put me under. We're the original Collierville mall. We've been here since 1870. The merchants' association will find ways to keep the square vital."

A sense of community. Other town square retailers echoed her sentiment. Although Carriage Crossing is designed with the concept of village in mind, it is dedicated to the business of retail. Not so at the Collierville square where, noting the groups of neighbors chatting on the boardwalk in front of Bella Cafe, one gets a sense of real community.

Nonetheless, the open-air mall is creating a challenge for many small businesses in the area. But if, as Judy Fricke hopes, Memphis shoppers take the time to discover the charms of old town Collierville, she knows they'll come back.

Driving new traffic. Like several Historic District Merchants' Association members, Don Bassett, chairman of the Biblical Resource Center and Museum on the Square, believes spillover from Carriage Crossing will bring new visitors to Collierville.

"Looks to me like a win for everybody," he said.

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