SKY + MALL
M.Fredric to LAX Retail District
When M.Fredric, the Los Angeles–area contemporary boutique chain, opens a store at the upcoming The Village at Westfield Topanga development this fall, it is scheduled to be the chain’s last location in a traditional retail area for a while, said Fred Levine, M.Fredric’s co-founder.
But the 35-year-old retail chain is not done with expansion.
Levine recently announced that M.Fredric will join an upcoming group of Los Angeles International Airport shops developed by Westfield, the retail center–management company that runs more than 38 malls in the U.S. The M.Fredric LAX store will take a bow in December at Terminal 6. M.Fredric will sell T-shirts, sweaters and sweats with a Los Angeles ambiance in a new restaurant and retail area with upcoming neighbors such as Tumi; Belkin, a consumer electronics company; Starbucks; and Wahoo Fish Tacos, a restaurant chain with a fervent following among the action-sports set.
Levine said that while the chain has reached its potential with boutiques in traditional retail districts for the time being, the airport business is just starting to develop in America. “The potential for airports is phenomenal,” he said. “There is more traffic and more volume than in a traditional shopping center. There are thousands of business people, and tourists have time on their hands. It’s a captive audience.”
Westfield is developing retail in LAX terminals 1, 2, 3, 6 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). Terminal 2 is scheduled to be completed later this year. Terminal 6 is scheduled to be completed in summer 2016. Terminal 1, which is being redeveloped in partnership with Southwest Airlines, is forecast to complete construction by 2018. Construction in all terminals will be conducted in different phases. Some of the LAX retail redevelopment has already taken place. A bank of stores that includes Fred Segal and Bulgari and Michael Kors took a bow in Fall 2013. The area is located in TBIT and is located after the security checkpoint, around an area called the Villaraigosa Pavilion, named in honor of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
In Los Angeles Airport’s Terminal 1, Westfield will develop a 25,242-square-foot retail and restaurant section that is scheduled to feature a boutique by surfwear giant Quiksilver. Reportedly, it will be the first time the Huntington Beach, Calif.–headquartered company will run a store in an airport. The airport development, with a $508 million price tag, is scheduled to be completed in 2018. However, the first shops are scheduled to open by the end of 2015. Restaurants for this terminal will include Rock & Brews, a restaurant co-founded by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of rock band Kiss, and Be Relax, an airport spa service that offers massages, manicures and beauty services.
While some of the world’s busiest airports have developed a reputation for high-end retail, LAX, the third-busiest airport in the U.S., has some catching up to do when it comes to retail, said Heathyr Wolfe, a celebrity wardrobe and red-carpet stylist.
“LAX is for catching a flight, a coffee and leaving,” Wolfe said. She is creative director and chief executive officer of Heathyrwolfe.com.
Nicole Pollard Bayme, a chief executive officer and stylist for LaLaLuxe, said the revamp will be a step in the right direction for LAX retail.
“It’s very LA,” she said of the upcoming development. Stores such as Fred Segal feature bicycles and surfboards in the store and sell candy with “LA” on it. As for high-end, she said, “They are the usual suspects: Michael Kors, Bulgari. They are at every international airport.”
She said that duty-free shopping and airport retail can be a great deal. “Duty-free shopping can be a highlight of a trip, especially if a currency exchange is working in their [the customers’] favor.” Pollard Bayme has served as an unpaid consultant for Westfield. She also is the chief executive officer for Bikini Cleanse, a weight-loss program.
Retailers opening airport stores also face some extra hurdles. Some retailers say goods have to be delivered to airport shops more frequently than traditional shops because of storage issues. Security is an issue and staff working in shops located past security checkpoints must go through security daily. For some employees, travel to work may be an issue because parking is offsite.
Fraser Ross, founder of the Los Angeles–based Kitson chain, opened a Kitson store at LAX in 2013 in partnership with the Hudson Group. The store closed earlier this year. Ross said airport retail can be highly lucrative, especially if the retail store sells goods that are in high-demand such as beverages. However, he felt that business can suffer due to some of the unique issues of running an airport store. “While the opportunity for brand recognition is great at the airport, as a licensor, the inability to readily access and monitor the locations has the potential to cost the brand in other ways, which can undermine profitability in the end,” he said.
Levine of M.Fredric said that his upcoming LAX shop will be a thumbnail sketch of the M.Fredric experience. The Los Angeles store is scheduled to be 290 square feet. There will be no dressing room, he said. “It will be limited to grab-and-go shopping,” he said. “Outerwear, cardigans, one-size tops, accessories and other products not requiring a private dressing room.”
Brands scheduled to be sold at the M.Fredric shop include Michael Stars, True Grit Clothing Co. and Dylan Clothing, Elan sweaters, and Wildfox sweats.
M.Fredric will be licensing its LAX store concept to the World Duty Free Group company. The store buying will be operated by M.Fredric. However, World Duty will operate and build the shops.
Next up, an M.Fredric store is scheduled to open in George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston in early 2016.