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Originally published September 14, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 14, 2007 at 10:16 AM

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Retail Report

Bellevue Collection's goal: become fashion central

It's billed as nine days of fashion bliss for the Northwest's well-heeled, well-dressed crowd. But behind the scenes, Bellevue developer...

Seattle Times business reporters

It's billed as nine days of fashion bliss for the Northwest's well-heeled, well-dressed crowd. But behind the scenes, Bellevue developer Kemper Freeman calls it pre-emptive marketing.

Freeman said his Kemper Development company is spending about $500,000 to put on the second annual Fashion Week today through Sept. 22 at the Bellevue Collection. "If someone wants to do a better fashion show than this, they're going to have to be pretty sober," Freeman said shortly after a dress rehearsal Thursday morning. Although it's timed to New York's Fashion Week, it spotlights what's in stores now rather than next spring and summer. (Women: Think fur-trimmed jackets, leather riding boots and bold accessories.) The purpose, Freeman said, is to brand Bellevue Collection as the Northwest's fashion headquarters, "something we frankly should have done 20 years ago. We're lucky someone already hasn't done this."

Bellevue Collection is made up of Kemper Development's Bellevue Square, Bellevue Place and Lincoln Square. Competition for well-to-do shoppers is heating up as Dallas-based Neiman Marcus prepares to open at the Bravern project in downtown Bellevue in 2009. Also, Seattle's Northgate Mall and Southcenter in Tukwila are undergoing major renovations.

Many Fashion Week events — which include runway shows, makeovers and private shopping parties — require tickets ranging from $20 to $50. VIP tickets cost up to $100.

But the events aren't meant as moneymakers, unless you count the sales boosts that merchants get from them, Freeman said. He noted that retailer David Lawrence sold a handful of $5,000 men's jackets after one show last year.

Ticket proceeds go to charity (the Puget Sound chapter of Susan G. Komen for the Cure) and to offset costs. At Saturday's "Posh Party," for example, a $50 entrance fee buys attendees finger foods, swag bags filled with giveaways such as T-shirts, cosmetics and coupons, and a $20 gift certificate to the Bellevue Collection.

Bellevue Square, itself undergoing a major renovation, has a tenant roster that includes Nordstrom, Tiffany and BCBG Maxazria. Soon to join the roster: Threads, a baby-apparel store being launched by Pottery Barn; and Aritzia, a hip women's fashion retailer based in Vancouver, B.C.

Both are expected to open this fall near Bellevue Square's Center Court, said Jennifer Leavitt, marketing director at Kemper Development. Also, Lacoste plans to enter Bellevue Square in mid-2008, she said.

— Amy Martinez

Tidbits

Wall Street is abuzz over rumors that Nordstrom is close to picking a site for its first Manhattan store. The New York Sun and Crain's New York Business speculated this week that Nordstrom is in serious talks for the lower floors at what was once the Drake Hotel on Park Avenue. Tim Bueneman, who follows Nordstrom for McAdams Wright Ragen in Seattle, calls it a dynamite site, yet very expensive. "Nordstrom's not famous for paying up a lot of money for real estate, but in New York, it may be different," he said. Spokesman Michael Boyd said Nordstrom continues to look in Manhattan, though he declined to comment on the rumors. A Manhattan store could boost Nordstrom's stock, which has been doing well on its own. Shares rose $1.53 Thursday to $48.47. — AM

Vintage Wine Trust , a Marin County-based real-estate investment trust focused solely on the wine and vineyard industry, has bought the Den Hoed family's Grandview Vineyards in the Yakima Valley for $12.4 million. Grandview Vineyards has about 700 acres on four properties, including 568 acres of vineyard grapes and 84 acres of apples. The properties are Desert Hills Vineyard, Andrew Den Hoed Farms, Foothill Vineyard and Rattlesnake Vineyard. Most of the grapes are under contract to Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. The property will be leased back to the Den Hoed family with an initial lease running through 2011. — MA

Next weekend's Oktoberfest in Fremont will have a racy component: the new Buxom Beer Garden, a grown-up space featuring mugs of beer and "comely gals in Bavarian garb," according to a festival news release. "It's been our experience that a lot of people who come to Oktoberfest are more offended by the oompah bands than the female form," festival organizer Phil Megenhardt said in the release. — MA

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Gene Juarez Salons & Spas plans to open at Seattle's University Village. Work on its 8,500-square-foot space next to Crate & Barrel is expected to begin in February, with completion set for August 2008. Gene Juarez already has eight locations in the Seattle area. — AM

United Airlines renewed its exclusive contract with Starbucks, with which it has partnered for more than a decade. It is the only major U.S. airline that serves Starbucks brand coffee. — MA

Nordstrom Rack opens today at Southcenter Square at 17200 Southcenter Parkway in Tukwila. It's Nordstrom Rack's fifth Seattle-area store. — AM

Rental rates for retailers in the Seattle area are expected to rise over the next six months, says a new report by commercial real-estate brokerage GVA Kidder Mathews. Rents now range from $35 to $75 a square foot annually in the Seattle central business district. (They're between $20 and $40 a square foot at suburban centers anchored by grocery stores.) The brokerage says large retailers are targeting the area for expansion, due to solid job growth and personal-health levels that rank among the nation's highest, driving down vacancies. But relief for retailers might be on the way: More than 5 million square feet of retail space is under construction in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties, according to GVA Kidder Mathews. — AM

Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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Retail Report is a look at the trends, issues and people who makeup the dynamic and versatile retail sector throughout the Puget Sound region. Every Friday with Melissa Allison and Amy Martinez. Send tips or comments to mallison@seattletimes.com or amartinez@seattletimes.com.

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