Commentary: Shop ’til somebody drops

The Mayfair Mall Nordstrom at its opening gala.

Nordstrom is finally here!

Mayfair Mall Nordstrom
The Mayfair Mall Nordstrom at its opening gala.

For years, shoppers in the metro Milwaukee area have clamored for Seattle-based Nordstrom Inc. to open a store in the region. Their wish finally came true with the recent opening of the new Nordstrom store at Mayfair Mall in Wauwatosa. A sellout crowd of 1,800 attended an Opening Gala for the store and hundreds more streamed through the doors on the store’s first day of business.

The three-story, 140,000-square-foot store certainly is a high-class, upscale addition to the metro Milwaukee retail scene. It is probably one of the best, if not the very best, stores the region has ever had.

Metro Milwaukee was the largest market in the nation without a Nordstrom store. It will be interesting to see if this notoriously thrifty community will provide enough business to support the store after the novelty wears off. The new Mayfair Collection shopping center, also in Wauwatosa, offers Nordstrom’s off-price alternative, Nordstrom Rack.

The Mayfair Mall Nordstrom should be a regional destination, attracting shoppers to make the trip to Wauwatosa, and it could help convince more Milwaukee area shoppers to spend their money here rather than in Chicago.

The addition of Nordstrom certainly establishes Mayfair Mall as the premier shopping center in metro Milwaukee. In addition to Nordstrom, the mall has added several other new stores recently, including The Container Store.

Meanwhile, it is good to see construction progressing at The Corners, a $200 million lifestyle center development in Brookfield that will have 400,000 square feet of retail space, including a 140,000-square-foot Von Maur store, another upscale department store that will open its first location in the state.

Can our region support the addition of two new high-end department stores?

The addition of The Corners, the Mayfair Collection and Nordstrom at Mayfair Mall could put significant pressure on Brookfield Square, located in between the Wauwatosa shopping centers and the site of the Corners. Brookfield Square continues to enhance its offerings, but it will face a lot of additional competition from these developments.

Or will one of the new developments struggle to find its place? One retail real estate developer told me The Corners will be a failure because Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc., which owns Brookfield Square, and Chicago-based General Growth Properties Inc., which owns Mayfair Mall, have too much clout over national retail tenants and will block them from locating at The Corners. We shall see. It has been awhile since there has been a tenant announcement for The Corners.

And that’s not all. We are still waiting to hear who will take the place of the Sears store that closed late last year at Bayshore Town Center. The Corridor, a mixed-use project under construction southwest of Bluemound and Calhoun roads in Brookfield, will have a significant amount of retail space. The area’s grocery industry is in a state of upheaval, with increased competition, including the introduction of numerous Meijer stores in the region and Costco building stores in New Berlin and Menomonee Falls.

That’s a lot of new retail development in a region experiencing modest population growth. Something’s got to give.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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