Mom-and-pop shops welcome proposed outlet malls to the Chesterfield Valley
By: Carol Enright
Ever since developers went before Chesterfield City Council in November 2011 with plans for building competing outlet malls in Chesterfield Valley, the owner of Chesterfield Mall has vehemently opposed the developments on the grounds that they would hurt business at the mall. But what about the small, privately owned retailers that dot the valley?
“I think it’s a good thing,” said Tony Goslee, owner of Chesterfield Jewelers. “It will bring many more visitors to the valley. It will draw more people from a large geographic area.
“I don’t know that we’ll see the direct benefit of those people coming in from out of the area, but it will certainly put more dollars into the local economy – which I see as a good thing.”
Pat McCurren, owner of Mattress Direct, said, “The idea of bringing more traffic into the area is attractive.”
McCurren sees the potential influx of people as an opportunity to gain visibility for his store, even among those who may not be shopping for a mattress that day.
“We like having people down in the area just to see who we are and see where we’re at,” McCurren said.
“I welcome the traffic,” concurred Michael Herr, owner of Michael Herr Diamonds and Fine Jewelry.
Both outlet mall developers have announced that they have signed national jewelry chains, such as Kay Jewelers. But Herr is not concerned.
“We do a lot of custom stuff. We do a lot of specialty things that they really aren’t capable of doing, just because of our experience and the knowledge that we have,” said Herr. “There’s really not a comparison.”
Herr is counting on the increased traffic to introduce his store to shoppers who may not have heard of the specialty jeweler.
“More exposure is good. Anytime I get somebody in the store here with me and my staff, we’re very confident that we’re able to at least have a great shot at making a sale or getting a future customer,” Herr said.
David Spetnagel, who owns the Fleet Feet store in Chesterfield Commons, agreed with Herr’s “bring it on” attitude.
“Although it may surprise some, I am excited about the prospect (of an outlet mall) and hope that the winner is the one that would be closer to our Chesterfield Commons store,” said Spetnagel. “The more popular the area is to shoppers, the more opportunity we have to get some of them into our store and show them that shopping at a locally owned specialty store provides them with both excellent service and value.”
Martin Sneider, adjunct professor of retail at Washington University’s Olin School of Business, said he thought the impact of an outlet mall in Chesterfield Valley on local stores would be “minimal.”
“I think a lot of people patronize locally owned stores and appreciate the kind of attention and additive merchandise selection that are available,” said Sneider.
In addition to their personal service and specialty merchandise, Sneider said the mom-and-pops tend to be conveniently located so shoppers “don’t have to endure the big parking lot nightmare of big malls.”
Ruth Greco owns Take Note in Chesterfield Valley, which specializes in custom stationery. She, too, is excited about the prospect of an outlet mall in Chesterfield. “We do everything personalized, and I can’t imagine an outlet mall doing anything like that,” Greco said.
On a recent afternoon, Deborah Kumming, of Chesterfield, stopped in to ask Greco for help designing custom invitations for her daughter’s wedding, and said: “I think what it’s going to threaten more are the big-box stores or the mall.”
Sneider agreed, saying, “I think there’ll be some … cannibalization of business in, say, Chesterfield Mall, where you have some of the same mall stores that are going to operate outlet units six miles away. And I think you might have some dilution or cannibalization of big-box store business.”
On the prospect of having two outlet malls in the valley, Sneider is emphatic that two cannot prosper and called it “suicidal” for both developers to move forward as planned.
“There’s not enough business, in my judgment, to sustain mega outlet malls that close together,” he said.
As of the morning of Aug. 8, Aimee Nassif, Chesterfield’s director of planning and development services, confirmed that neither outlet had its building permit yet.