Friday, June 3, 2011

There’s no stealing Oklahoma City’s Thunder

I readily admit that I’m a sports-aholic. While football and basketball -- college and pro -- are my favorite sports, I’m also a die-hard LSU baseball fan and am even learning to appreciate a little NASCAR and professional golf now and then.

Lately, my focus has been, understandably, on the NBA basketball playoffs. Because I live just 60 miles from New Orleans, I’m a Hornets fan and thoroughly enjoyed the team’s short-lived run toward the championship. But I’ve also made no secret about my affinity for the Oklahoma City Thunder, which ignited Oklahoma City as it marched ever so close to a showdown for the big prize. In fact, at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual RECon real estate convention in Las Vegas May 22-25, Oklahoma City was thunderous in its support of the team. The City’s booth sported player posters and mascot cutouts, and the mayor made the team a focus in his on-site interviews.

“We are all so proud of our team and are praying for a win tonight against Dallas,” Mayor Mick Cornett told me on May 23 from his Las Vegas convention center booth. “The fact that we have filled the arena game after game has proven how vibrant a market Oklahoma City is.”

Cornett doesn’t have to sell me. I traveled to Oklahoma City last year to meet with the business development group and Chamber of Commerce about the city’s plans to attract more major retail. What I saw and heard that day convinced me that OK City has plenty to offer -- and retailers are listening. The Outlet Shoppes at Oklahoma City, slated to open this summer, has brought in Saks Off 5th, Brooks Bros., Coach, Tommy Hilfiger and more. Word on the street is that Crate & Barrel has been sniffing around the market. And so has The Container Store. When I was in the booth, it was packed with retailers who appeared to be in some pretty serious discussions about what the city has to offer.

According to the mayor, destination retail is still absent, however. “I’m talking about retailers such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom,” said Cornett. “That high-end retailer is missing from Oklahoma City, and we have a lot of respect for the draw of a destination retailer of that caliber.”

I had queried both Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus last year about any potential interest in OK City. Neiman’s was a flat ‘no,’ as the retailer believes its Dallas offerings will pull shoppers from Oklahoma, which is likely true. Nordstrom, however, appeared to have a little more wiggle room. “We wouldn’t absolutely rule it out,” a spokesperson for the Seattle department store told me. I can’t help but wonder about Saks, as well. With Off 5th opening at the Outlet Shoppes in August, perhaps a strong showing from its off-price arm might get the full-price sister’s attention.

“Who knows? Maybe the outlet concepts could be followed by the full-price models,” mused the mayor. And the basketball team, which by the way lost its bid for a world title at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, has helped to draw more attention to Oklahoma City. “The Thunder has generated plenty of noise,” said Cornett.

I, for one, am listening. Are you?

-- Katherine Field Boccaccio

2 comments:

Feisty said...

Kat,

The San Marcos outlets along I35 between Austin and San Antonio is an international shopping destination. On most weekends the parking lot is not only full of license plates from Mexico, but buses full of Japanese, French, and German shoppers, as well.

I have no idea who the tour operators are or the other attractions which may have brought them to the Texas Hill Country, but it is much like the United Nations over there. They also shop primarily in cash.

Anonymous said...

Katherine -

My husband and I moved from New York City to Oklahoma City last fall and have noticed large holes in the retail market - especially the lack of a high end department store. There are a number of smaller boutiques that sell designs from the NYC and LA metros, but nothing in the quantity that a Nordstroms, Neimans, or Saks would have. If a Nordstrom can survive in Providence, RI (where my husband grew up), then I would imagine there's a market here in OKC.

Fingers crossed!
Alex

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