SHORT HILLS: CASH AND CACHET
Byline: Dianne M. Pogoda
SHORT HILLS, N.J. — The Mall at Short Hills is becoming the powerhouse high-end retail complex of central New Jersey.
In the midst of a renovation, the mall will add a Saks Fifth Avenue — opening Saturday — Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and about 40 better specialty stores to existing anchors Bloomingdale’s and Abraham & Straus and about 150 other retailers by next summer.
Short Hills is a project of the Taubman Co., Bloomfield Hills, Mich., which owns, develops and operates 20 better regional and super-regional malls nationally. Among its properties are Cherry Creek in Denver, Stamford Town Center in Stamford, Conn., and Beverly Center in Los Angeles.
Average sales per square foot for its entire portfolio is $325, and Short Hills is expected to top $475 per square foot this year, putting its total volume over $500 million a year.
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, that puts it in the top 1 percent of all malls in the country. Its national average for fashion-oriented malls is $220 a square foot when anchor stores are included. That rises to $256 for the specialty store tenants, excluding anchors, at fashion malls.
“The demographics of this area are extremely high, and with the expansion, we will be pulling from an even greater area,” said Craig N. Perry, general manager. The mall currently draws from about a 10-mile radius. “Our main competition is Madison and Fifth Avenues in New York. But you can shop from one end of Manhattan to the other and not find all the stores we have here.”
Short Hills is roughly 25 miles from Manhattan.
The renovation will see leasable area rise to 1.35 million square feet from 1.1 million square feet. Even though the total space of the new stores exceeds 250,000 square feet, the increase is a net gain, since a part of the original mall, occupied by B. Altman and Bonwit Teller, was knocked down.
The Saks branch is the first to open under the direction of chairman and chief executive officer Philip Miller, president Rose Marie Bravo and their team of executives, and the first full-line Saks store to be built in four years. The last one was in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The Short Hills unit will replace the Saks store in nearby Springfield, N.J., where it has been since 1957.
Miller projected Saks in Short Hills should hit $30 million in sales its first year in business, compared to $22 million at the Springfield store.
Saks is opening on the site of the former Bonwit’s. It will be 100,000 square feet on three levels. It is 20,000 square feet more than Bonwit’s, and 25,000 square feet more than the Springfield store.
The increase will be devoted to expanding men’s wear, cosmetics, accessories, designer apparel and the shoe salon.
New World Coffee, a chain of coffee bars, will open at the Short Hills Saks. It is the first of three n-store bars slated to open in Saks stores this year — the others will be in Franklin Mills in Philadelphia, and Riverside Square Mall in Hackensack, N.J. More are expected to open in 1995.
“In its heyday, in the Seventies and early Eighties, this was one of the finest quality and most productive shopping centers in America,” said Miller.
But losing Bonwit’s and Altman’s took its toll.
“With the renovation, it will absolutely return to what it used to be: the nirvana of shopping malls,” Miller said.
Bloomingdale’s celebrated the completion of its year-long, $20 million renovation last Saturday. The store remained open through the entire process.
“We really opened this store up,” said Michael Gould, Bloomingdale’s chairman and ceo, pointing out that the store “punched out” additional selling space into what was storage area.
“It’s the most open floor plan for us,” said Gould.
Bloomingdale’s at Short Hills is 220,000 square feet, the largest of the anchors.
Gould said the store generates annual sales of between $60 million and $70 million, and he expects a 20 percent increase next year. “It’s one of our best stores,” he said.
Bloomingdale’s removed the furniture and lamps department, and added space for women’s apparel, particularly the bridge department and shoes, men’s wear and fashion accessories. Gould said the retailer is looking for a freestanding store for furniture.
“We still want to be in that business,” he said, “but we needed to expand the space devoted to those other categories in order to be competitive, especially with Saks, Nordstrom and Neiman’s coming in.”
The mall’s new wing will be anchored by Neiman’s and Nordstrom and is slated for completion next August.
Neiman’s will be 137,000 square feet. It is part of the chain’s push in the Northeast, said Tom Stangle, senior vice president and director of stores for the East Coast and Midwest. The company will open a store in the Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus in August 1996, and a store in King of Prussia, Pa., in March 1996. It already has a unit in White Plains, N.Y.
“The demographics of Short Hills are a great match for our customers,” said Stangle.
Norwood Oliver, president of Norwood Oliver Design Associates, the interior planners working on the Neiman’s unit, said the store has a lot of elements that are typical of Neiman’s, like high ceilings and light and dark woods. The look is softened by some of the details: padded leather walls in the men’s area, plush seating throughout the store, windows and skylights, and crinkled-paint finishes or fake sharkskin on some walls.
Sources estimate the unit could ring up about $40 million its first year.
The store will carry a full range of designer collections, including Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Anne Klein and Escada gifts and children’s wear, and will have a restaurant. Industry sources said Seattle-based Nordstrom could generate first-year sales of up to $70 million. The store will be 172,000 square feet, on two levels.
The store will include fine jewelry, five shoe departments, designer boutiques — among them St. John and Faconnable — two restaurants and an espresso bar.
Among other stores joining the mall are Tiffany’s — the chain’s only unit in New Jersey; Crate & Barrel; three Guess stores — for adult apparel, children’s wear and home; Timberland; Waldenbooks; Eileen Fisher; Bottega Veneta; Tommy Hilfiger; Variazioni, and Wolford Boutique.
Many existing stores in the complex have expanded and renovated, including Eddie Bauer, Express, The Limited, Ann Taylor, The Gap and Talbots.
The Mall at Short Hills grew as an open-air center around a single Altman store in the Fifties, adding Bonwit’s in 1961. It became an enclosed center in the Sixties.
Among the services provided are valet parking; free strollers and wheelchairs; free package and coat-check; a concierge desk that will make hotel reservations, call taxicabs and can access 30 languages among mall employees, and a central jobs-listing book for all employment opportunities at the mall. New parking lots and a deck will yield 6,100 spaces.
One thing shoppers will not find at Short Hills is a food court. When the renovation is complete, there will be eight restaurants scattered throughout the project, ranging from casual self-service to full waiter service.
“This,” said Perry, “is not a hangout type of mall.”