Anchorage will be getting a Nordstrom Rack store in the fall of 2015, the Seattle-based department store chain announced Wednesday.
The 35,000-square-foot store will be in The Mall at Sears in Midtown, according to Nordstrom spokeswoman Naomi Tobis.
Wednesday's announcement follows months of rumors. It was greeted with instant excitement by some retail-hungry Anchorage shoppers, who posted reactions online ranging from "Woo hoo!" to "I'd rather have a Trader Joe's."
A highly anticipated new store announcing plans to open at a time when anchor tenant Sears' parent company Sears Holding Corp. has lost hundreds of millions of dollars nationwide in recent quarters is more than welcome news for the mall's local owners.
"I couldn't think of much better," said Linda Boggs, the marketing director for Carr Gottstein Properties, which has owned The Mall at Sears since it opened in 1968.
Nordstrom Rack stores offer apparel, accessories and shoes priced 30 to 70 percent lower than those found at regular Nordstrom stores, company spokeswoman Tobis said.
The company has been aggressively expending its Nordstrom Rack division, opening 27 stores in 2014 alone and announcing plans to expand into new markets including Milwaukee and Tulsa.
"We choose locations based on where there's an opportunity to serve more customers," Tobis said.
By the end of 2016, Nordstrom Rack will have 230 stores nationwide, more than its regular full-line stores.
The new store will be about two miles from Anchorage's original Nordstrom store at 603 D St. downtown. It has been open since 1975.
The company plans to hire 50 employees for full and part-time positions starting 12 weeks before store opening, Tobis said.
An exact opening date has not been set.
The existing Sears store, which Boggs says has about 150,000 square feet of retail floor space, will be remodeled to make way for the new store, slated to occupy a space now used for athletic goods, treadmills, mattresses and other housewares.
The plan right now is for the new store to have an entrance facing the Seward Highway, she said.
A spokesman for Sears said it was too soon to say whether certain departments would be eliminated in the remodel.
Carr-Gottstein Properties owns the Mall at Sears as a whole, but the real estate holding company for Sears owns its space in the mall, Boggs said.
Sears and Nordstrom Rack put the deal together independently, she said.
Still, it was no secret that a deal was in the works.
When representatives of Nordstrom Rack visited Anchorage someone -- Boggs says no one within the Carr-Gottstein organization -- tailed their car.
Sears, facing tumbling sales and stock values, has been trying to sell and redevelop its properties as a way to unload assets and generate new revenue.
In a similar arrangement, a new Nordstrom Rack slated to open in Thousand Oaks, Calif., will occupy a portion of an existing Sears store.
In other markets, Sears has rented out space to third-party tenants such as Whole Foods and Forever 21, spokesman Chris Brathwaite said.
The Mall at Sears was the first enclosed shopping center in Alaska.
Since opening in 1968, it has weathered the ups and downs of retail shopping centers -- as well as the construction of the 5th Avenue Mall and Dimond Center. Often, chain stores would choose a first location at the 5th Avenue Mall and then expand to a second one at Dimond, if at all, Boggs said.
"We kind of got leapfrogged."
Retailers are drawn to Midtown in part because it sees so much vehicle traffic, said Bill Popp, the head of the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.
The planned location for Nordstrom Rack will face one of the busiest intersections in the city, Popp said.
A Department of Transportation traffic study shows that 51,752 vehicles drive by the intersection of the Seward Highway and Benson Boulevard on a typical day.
The Mall at Sears has been emphasizing its central location in trying to attract new, upscale tenants, Boggs said.
One is Steamdot Coffee, which has been open in the mall for a little more than a year.
"I think Steamdot brought in a new customer," she said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Steamdot was full of people clacking on silver laptops and drinking $3.50 cappuccinos. Nearby, vendors sold Chioggia beets and gluten-free bread at a year-round farmers market inside the mall.
There was also a kiosk entirely dedicated to selling items fashioned out of pipe cleaners, and a thriving boba milk tea stand.
At Lemon Tree Gifts, where it is possible to buy a wall decoration that says "THIS MAY BE THE WINE TALKING BUT I LOVE WINE," owner Roger Davis said he was surprised and happy to hear about the new tenant. He was familiar with Nordstrom Rack, he said, because his wife often insists on visiting the store on trips to Seattle.
"It'll bring more people in."
Other changes are ahead for the mall.
On Wednesday, a lease deal was finalized for a new eatery to be located in the mall: BurgerFi, a fast-casual national chain with roots in Florida that emphasizes its grass-fed, all-natural beef and high-quality ingredients, Boggs said.
With Sears shrinking and new tenants moving in, the Mall at Sears may not be the Mall at Sears forever.
"One thing we're contemplating in that maybe it's time for another name, since Sears will not be such a dominant player," she said.
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By MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS