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Tampa trade show says consumers want deals or indulgence

TAMPA — Chuck Taylor not only runs many of the huge shopping centers in Florida, he also exemplifies how many people have started shopping lately. Instead of going to just one grocery or department store, he’s become what’s known as a “polar” shopper. He’ll go to The Fresh Market for nice dinner food, but Costco for cleaning supplies and paper products. Sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve found you’ll buy a nice pair of shoes at an upper-end department store, but then buy workout gear at someplace like Marshall’s. “It’s either luxury, or value,” said Taylor, senior vice president for Madison Marquette, which operates shopping properties around the state. For any brand in between the luxury-or-value poles, it’s a tough market out there – and that’s why you’re seeing both a slew of new stores open at the high and low ends of consumer spending, while stores in the middle are closing. This all became starkly clear when one slide appeared on the giant screen presentation during a trade show in Tampa last week for retailers, developers, restaurants and bankers. And that brings us to the rundown of retail, restaurant and shopping news around town:
The “Slide of Doom/Glory” had three categories. Group A: Value brands growing like mad, including Aldi, the Aloft hotel, Wal-Mart, Ford, Southwest Airlines, Target, Amazon and TJ Maxx. Group B: Luxury brands growing like mad, including Publix, Audi, Nordstrom, Tory Burch and Ritz-Carlton. Group C: (This is not fun.) Middle-market brands either struggling, closing or moving to smaller locations, like JCPenney, BestBuy, Gap, Chrysler, Sweetbay, Marriott, Hilton and United. They’re all trying to remake themselves because the consumer doesn’t feel safe enough for “routine” spending. They want the thrill of a deal, or the thrill of a splurge. What recession? Perhaps the second-most shocking slide in presentations at the show was this: “55 Million.” That’s how many people visited Orlando in 2011, and that number is likely to be even higher once they finish the 2012 numbers. Get ready for this, but that’s not only Orlando’s best year ever, but perhaps the best year for any tourist destination in the nation, including Las Vegas and New York. Take that Vegas.com! (This is also why you need a helicopter to get into the Harry Potter area of Universal Orlando.) Who else is active in Florida development? If not mentioned before, let me add these to the brands everyone at the retail show was talking about as “active” in Florida now: Trader Joe’s, Gordon Food Service, Ross (“Dress for Less”), Hobby Lobby, Dick’s Sporting Goods, YouFit gyms, outdoor retailing giant REI (look out BassPro!), BJ’s warehouse club, Culver’s, Horton’s, RaceTrac, Circle K, PNC Bank and Tampa’s own chicken sandwich paradise, PDQ. And that leaves a slew of brands on the sidelines for now: Kohl’s, Home Depot, Lowes and Winn-Dixie. But if consumers have proven anything, they will shift their shopping in a heartbeat. 2014 and 2015 may look entirely different. For anyone looking to dig into the stats and research, I suggest going to the Web site for the International Council of Shopping Centers. ICSC.org. TV shoppers, keep those Amazon.com Wish Lists handy, because BestBuy just made its holiday price-matching policy permanent. That means they’ll match prices of 19 online rivals and other, local, brick-and-mortar competitors year-round. BestBuy.com. In other consumer news, we discovered something many have dreamed of while staring at the fridge: A refrigerator that dispenses Diet Coke, or at least comes very close to it. Samsung has partnered with Soda Stream to market a fridge that uses carbonated canisters to dispense bubbly water right from the fridge door. (One less step for that Scotch and soda.) Price tag? An estimated $3,899. We suspect an actual flavored-soda dispenser is on the horizon, so stay tuned. Samsung.com, and SodaStream.com. Lingo Lesson O’ The Day: “Gamification.” That’s the process of turning shopping online into a video game; what HSN has done on its site and many other online companies plan on launching. Because, why just shop when you can kill time playing the shopping version of Words With Friends? Look for projects like an Audi.com site with a button to “Drive a virtual Audi down the French Alps.” For examples, see Arcade.HSN.com.

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