Dolphin Mall keeps growing even as economy struggles
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Dolphin Mall has a lot to be thankful for during these cash-strapped times, including increased sales, new tenants and now a hotel on-site, mall officials say.
The shopping complex is making room for three new spaces under construction set to open by the fourth quarter of 2009.
A Nike Outlet is to occupy 10,000 square feet, a Calvin Klein store is set to open in 6,500 square feet and another 3,700 square feet are reserved for DKNY (Donna Karan New York) clothing store, said Pete Marrero, general manager at Dolphin Mall.
Courtyard by Marriott recently opened on the grounds. The hotel chain is leasing mall-owned land for its new five-story hotel expected to attract business travelers and tourists, he said. Hotel components include a 24-hour business center, a café and swimming pool.
The five-floor, 118-room hotel, which opened two months ago, is not connected to the mall structure but shares its parking area.
The super-sized mall, sitting on 112 acres, devotes 640,000 square feet to small stores and another 800,000 square feet to 18 anchor stores.
So far, Mr. Marrero said, the shopping complex, with more than 240 operating stores, is not feeling the economic pinch.
Dolphin Mall, about to turn 8 years old, has seen double-digit growth every single month this year, he said. "The center is doing remarkably well; we really haven't felt the effect (of the economic slowdown) to date."
With a loyal customer-base and new stores knocking at its doors, the mall is picky about who it keeps in its tenant mix.
Once a store's lease ends, Taubman Centers, Inc., owner and developer of the mall, evaluates whether to renew the lease. "When leases come up, some will be renewed and others will not," he said, adding each tenant's value to the center is weighed as a condition of renewal.
Mall officials are constantly looking to enhance the merchandise mix as the mall is limited in available square footage, Mr. Marrero said. "Pretty much it's an ongoing process."
He said complex owners are close to wrapping up leases for 15 new retail stores that are expected to "augment the brand and merchandise mix" at Dolphin.
But the names won't be revealed yet. He said its company policy to announce deals only once they are inked.
But Mr. Marrero gave a few tip-offs: the new stores are to occupy from 2,000 to 9,000 square feet of space each, and merchandise ranges from apparel to footwear.
The soon-to-be-unveiled stores are expected to open by mid 2009.
In recent years, Dolphin Mall has worked to balance its tenant mix, combining its anchor stores with smaller, full-priced retailers, he said. "There is a good synergy between off-price and full-price retailers that has worked very well here at Dolphin."
Michael Kors' handbags boutique is reaching its first year of occupying 2,100 square feet. Three iconic American retailers are enjoying lasting success at the site: Victoria's Secret, Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren.
Dining options are another strong component of the shopping complex.
Currently, visitors have eight sit-down restaurants to select from ranging from Mojitos Cuban Restaurant to a T.G.I. Friday's, but that's soon to change.
Mr. Marrero said he hopes to bring three new eateries to the mall next year to add to its blend of regional flavor with national-brand menus.
The complex now offers a food court, some restaurants in the exterior plaza by the mall entrance and a handful of eateries with an entertainment-element: Strikes Bowling Lounge, Dave & Buster's and Cobb Theaters' CineBistro.
"The (dining) categories are doing phenomenally well," he said.
And to make sure shoppers keep coming, the mall has a proactive approach.
It offers a shuttle service for travelers staying in hotels around downtown Miami and the Miami International Airport, making tourist shoppers from Europe and South America one of its strongest customer groups, he said.
"Part of the success is that wonderful mix of locals shoppers augmented by the mix of tourism shoppers," Mr. Marrero said.
While the restaurant and entertainment venues attract a lot of local traffic.
"Customers have an opportunity to come and do more than simply shop; they can shop, dine and be entertained in a family experience."
It's that family experience mall officials hope to capitalize on in the upcoming year.
It has two vacant spaces — aside from its occupied spots and those under negotiation — a 50,000-square-foot space at ground level and a smaller one of 15,000 square feet on the second level.
Mr. Marrero said it might want to fill one of those empty spaces with an entertainment venue that caters solely to families. "We feel strongly there is room for at least one more entertainment venue at the center."