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Wal-Mart Adds To Glut Of Retailers

Mindful of the old dictum that if you can’t say anything good, it’s better to say nothing at all, this column will dispense with a sales forecast for this Christmas.

Repeatedly in recent years, an expanding area economy, an influx of California refugees, and escalating retail development pointed unmistakably to hefty increases. Until last Christmas, when sales slumped.

It would be nice to say that metropolitan Spokane sales are looking up this holiday season, but that wouldn’t be realistic.

The economy of the area has slowed. In-migration is a trickle. The housing industry is sagging. Disposable income is dragging. Retail development has completely outstripped demand. And the development pipeline continues to overflow with new surplus stores.

Now Wal-Mart may be coming to town. The world’s most-feared discount giant has filed plans with the county for a site in the Spokane Valley. At least one other killer store is expected in the metropolitan market, most likely on the North Side.

Even more a threat, developers of the long-anticipated Spokane Valley Mall have picked up building permits for their 100-store megamall.

And developers of the burgeoning NorthTown monster-mall speak of adding a sixth big anchor-store, plus another quarter-million square feet of shop space and a pair of big new two-story parking garges.

Spokane’s other major retail center - downtown - is regrouping, too. Within the past couple weeks, news stories have surfaced on the refurbishing and reopening of another key corner of the beloved old Crescent Store complex.

The five-floor, 50,000-square-foot Paterson building at Main and Post has been acquired by the Spokane management and development firm of Goodale & Barbieri, and is undergoing renovation.

This is the same firm that redeveloped the other end of The Crescent block, creating the Crescent Court retail complex. The company says shops also will occupy the street and skywalk levels of the new wing.

And last, but equally significant in downtown’s comeback plan, an affiliate of this newspaper has bought back the former J. C. Penney store building. It is directly across Post from the Paterson building and directly across Main from River Park Square shopping complex, also owned by the company and slated for redevelopment.

This is the second time that a subsidiary of the Cowles Publishing Co. has owned the downtown Penney’s property.

Before occupying the building, Penney’s was quartered kittycorner across the intersection in what is now the Nordstrom location.

Cowles affiliates built the new store for Penney’s, and redeveloped the vacated quarters for Nordstrom’s first expansion outside of Seattle about 20 years ago. In that sense, this is where Nordstrom’s nationwide explosion began - downtown Spokane.

Now, Cowles affiliates are proposing a two-block $80-million redevelopment that would include an exciting new downtown store for Nordstrom.

Meantime, for years Penney’s leased the new downtown store building, then about 10 or 12 years ago, the retailer bought the real estate. Next, five or six years ago, Penney’s sold the real estate to the developer of NorthTown, and moved out to the mall. That marked the start of the downtown exodus.

Now, it’s back to square one.

Finally, an all-natural supermarket has announced plans to open downtown next spring.

Bountiful Fresh Foods plans to lease a building at the northeast corner of Division and Main for an “organic” deli, juice bar, espresso, and bakery.

So far, so good.

But what readers keep wanting to know from me is where they can find a place that specializes in low-fat and non-fat food products.

Any number of grocery stores and even drug stores stock these items on an on-again off-again, limited basis. But none makes a sincere effort to serve this fast-growing market niche.

Their inventory is skimpy, incomplete, unreliable - way behind the curve.

If the correspondence and calls I receive are any indicator of true demand, an opportunity is going unexploited. Somebody ought to develop this specialty in Spokane.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel’s column appears on Monday, Wednesday and Sunday.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

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