By  on October 24, 2005

NEW YORK — When the Limited Brands launches a new retail concept, it usually chooses Easton Town Center for its first location. That’s because the mall, in Columbus, Ohio, is close enough to Limited Brands’ headquarters for chief executive officer Leslie Wexner to drive over and check its progress.

Not surprisingly, the company’s latest prototype for Bath & Body Works was recently unveiled at Easton. The 4,000-square-foot flagship was redesigned to convey a soothing spa environment. It will be rolled out nationwide in 2006, the Limited said. One of its key features is a white porcelain bathtub filled with water surrounded by BBW hydrotherapy products.

The Limited can roll out stores just about anywhere, but smaller entrepreneurs and start-up retailers need more attention. When it comes to new concepts, certain malls are more prepared than others to nurture stores along, especially those centers that seek out local and regional retailers that may not have the mind-set or the financial wherewithal to ramp up a business.

“It requires patience to work with these entrepreneurs,” said Tracy Gotsis, senior vice president of marketing for the Macerich Co., which operates the Biltmore Fashion Park, in Phoenix, among other properties.

But all the work is worth the effort, said Gotsis. “Local retailers are hitting the mark and able to customize their buys to the market,” she said. “We have a person who specializes in going out and working with local retailers and educating them about shopping centers.”

Macerich offers newbies temporary lease agreements, which allows them to give the shopping center business a try. “As they’re able to build their shopping center base, we begin to talk to them about permanent deals,” said Gotsis, adding that deals with smaller players are “based on different financial structures.”

Local stores such as Objects, Amy Inc., This Little Piggy Wears Cotton and Haus complement Escada, Polo Ralph Lauren and Stuart Weitzman at the Biltmore.

Amy Inc., said Gotsis, “picks up on designers that work really well in Arizona, such as Ivan Grundle.” At Haus, a contemporary home design store that carries eccentric furniture and accessories, Jonathan Adler is a top seller.

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