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Manteca’s coming 1-2 retail punch Bass Pro + outlets

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POSTED February 18, 2009 5:09 a.m.
The days of chain stores spreading like wildfire across the American landscape are coming to an end.

Analyst after analyst astutely points out the retailers who are showing the most strength through this economic downturn triggered by easy money and the sub-prime mortgage fiasco were expanding but were showing restraint. Even before retail sales started retracting, the national chains were starting to put more emphasis on less stores while trying to site them in a manner they could get the maximum dollar return per store.

Even with the mega drawing power of Bass Pro Shops, such a trend could have proved problematic to get some of the clothing stores that would are located in Modesto and Stockton malls to locate also in The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley until Manteca and its immediate population balloons significantly. While there are over a million consumers within a 20-minute driving range of Manteca thanks to the city being equidistant from Modesto, Stockton, and Tracy plus located on the connector freeway to the two main north-south freeways in the state, retailers with stores in Modesto Vintage Faire and also in Tracy or Stockton were difficult to convince them of the need to come to Manteca.

There was also the real dilemma of “the next big thing” down the road undermining Orchard Valley to a degree even with Bass Pro serving as a magnet drawing shoppers from up to 100 miles away. Given the major growth anticipated in the next 20-plus years in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, all it would take was for a new mega retail complex down the road to build along Interstate 5 in Lathrop or even somewhere else in Manteca to siphon business away from Orchard Valley.

Now, though, with a cutting edge partnership between Orchard Valley developer Poag & McEwen and Craig Realty Group that specializes in upscale outlet malls in places like Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and Phoenix Manteca is positioning itself to land stores that are not currently in the Northern San Joaquin Valley market plus expand on the 100-mile drawing power of Bass Pro Shops.

Yes, there is an outlet mall in Tracy. It has dwindled in size and doesn’t have the star drawing power of Vacaville, Gilroy or Napa. Yes, there was an outlet mall in Lathrop that fizzled.

In terms of access and exposure, though, neither compares to the Union Road location on the Highway 120 Bypass. Plus neither had a mega-regional drawing card like Bass Pro Shop or a 16-screen cinema plus a hotel going up on site.

Steve Craig – the principal in Craig Realty Group – said his firm has been keeping an eye on the Northern San Joaquin Valley for years and scouting for an ideal site for an outlet mall. The reason is simple. The growing demographics including rising income and consumer numbers in an area picked as a high growth area for California for at least the next two decades.

The fact he can do an outlet mall in conjunction with a Bass Pro Shop, a Hampton Inn, and 16-screen theater plus be right down the road from Big League Dreams sports complex makes it all that much sweeter.

From Manteca’s perspective, it doesn’t get any better. An outlet mall means Manteca will have stores that consumers can’t access in Modesto and Stockton. That means out-of-town money coming into Manteca from within the region to generate jobs, grease the local economy, and send sales tax into municipal coffers. The tie-in with Bass Pro, a hotel, and a theater can make Manteca destination shopping spot much like Vacaville and Gilroy outlets.

It doesn’t cannibalize existing retail in Manteca. It also keeps the door open for all of the “desired” national stores that Manteca was hoping to get with Orchard Valley.

If you think that’s a pipe dream, take a look around Vacaville’s Outlets. It is surrounded by other centers that brought in stores and restaurants that like the drawing power of an outlet mall.

The Lifestyle Outlets at Manteca may indeed severely cramp traffic to the Tracy Outlets. That, however, isn’t Manteca’s concerns. Tracy, if you’ll recall, used a ton of redevelopment money — $37 million-plus — to get West Valley Mall in years ahead of when the community could support a regional mall. It helped lure away Manteca consumer dollars. Now that the trend is reversing, some in Tracy are crying foul.

Unfortunately, as long as sales tax is a major component of what fuels cities, you’ll see municipalities that don’t want to become doormats to take aggressive stances toward luring retail.  Manteca, fortunately, has been able to land two unique retail draws – the existing Bass Pro Shop and the coming Lifestyle Outlets at Manteca.

It is borderline genius retail move that will pay big dividends down the road in helping fund city services and reversing the retail bleed that for years favored Manteca’s neighboring cities.

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