By Jen Aronoffjaronoff@charlotteobserver.com
A big name in off-price shopping is on tap for Charlotte: Nordstrom plans to open its first local Nordstrom Rack store next year in the former Circuit City space at Carolina Pavilion.
The 43,000-square-foot store on South Boulevard at Interstate 485 is slated for a spring 2011 debut, the Seattle-based department store chain said Thursday.
Rack stores sell clearance apparel, accessories and home goods from regular Nordstrom stores at 50 to 60 percent off regular price. The stores also sell items purchased just for Nordstrom Rack at 30 to 70 percent off original prices.
Nordstrom has long wanted to grow its Rack presence in North Carolina, spokesman Colin Johnson said, and thinks Carolina Pavilion is the right place to do that locally due to its established retail mix and relative proximity to the full-line Nordstrom at SouthPark mall. The first Rack store in the state is set to open in Durham in September.
Nordstrom Rack started in 1975, a couple of blocks from Nordstrom's flagship store in Seattle. But the company has been expanding the concept, which has fared better during the recession than full-priced Nordstrom stores. There are currently about 70 Nordstrom Racks nationwide.
In Nordstrom's 2009 fiscal year, which ended Jan. 31, sales at regular Nordstrom stores open a year or more fell 7.2 percent, while Rack same-store sales increased 2.5 percent. Such sales are key gauge of retail health.
The Charlotte store will fill a space that has been empty for about a year and bring Carolina Pavilion, which had seen turnover in previous years, to nearly 100 percent occupancy, said Bob Mitzel, director of operations for Atlanta-based Equity One Realty Management, Inc.
Equity One controls DIM Vastgoed, the Dutch company that owns Carolina Pavilion. Its remaining vacancy is the Rafferty's restaurant that closed late last year.
"We're seeing a lot more activity this year, and we're excited to continue that," Mitzel said. "(Nordstrom Rack) is such a fantastic tenant. It should help all businesses in the center."
The Rack in Charlotte will join another department store's off-price brand on the local retail scene: Saks Fifth Avenue's Off 5th, located at Concord Mills.
It also comes as other high-end retailers are branching into outlet concepts, too - though not here, at least yet.
Neiman Marcus operates Last Call stores, the closest of which is near Atlanta. Bloomingdale's, which doesn't have a Carolinas store, announced last month that it plans to open its first outlet stores this year.
Plans for more Rack stores were in place before the downturn, Johnson said, but the company has seen better real estate opportunities recently.
Nordstrom will open 16 Racks this year, up from 13 in 2009.