Champs Sports to open concept store in Mall at University Town Center

Gymboree, Brooks Brothers also coming to new mall at University Town Center

cschelle@bradenton.comMarch 4, 2014 

Bradenton-based Champs Sports will open a 5,300-square-foot store in the new Mall at University Town Center in October that will feature the chain's new concept layout featuring shoe displays in the center aisle. Provided photo

RICHARD CADAN PHOTOGRAPHY

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Bradenton's own Champs Sports will build a new concept store in the Mall at University Town Center.

The new 5,300-square-foot store will ditch the traditional shoe wall and instead have a bleacher-style display in the center aisle, matched up to have T-shirts and other apparel adjacent to it from the same manufacturers, said Scott Burton, director of marketing for Champs.

"It will allow the product to shine more so than you've probably seen at retail stores," Burton said. "This new look for our store is one that started about a year and a half ago, and we've expanded it ever since."

Both the Westfield Countryside Mall in Clearwater and WestShore Plaza in Tampa feature the new concept stores, and it will mark the first such design in the Bradenton-Sarasota market.

The layout is also larger, allowing the store to display more shirts, shorts and plenty of hats catering to high school varsity athletes. Brands will be matched up with their corresponding apparel so the Air Jordan shoes will be across from the Air Jordan shirts to make it feel like there are mini-shops inside, Burton said.

"Our mantra is really to allow a kid to have as much style off the court as they do on the court," he said.

While the headwear section will expand, don't expect a standalone Champs Just Hats store, Burton said. Only two exist in the nation: one in the Miami International Mall and the other at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.

The 880,000-square-foot, $315 million Mall at University Town Center, leased by Taubman, is expected to open Oct. 16. It's one of only a handful of malls being built in the country, making it a special opening for Champs.

"I know there are only about four or five malls being built across America, and this one being in our back yard and close to our headquarters provides us a phenomenal opportunity to not only build a bring new store in our local area, but to expand our store base and bring an all-new shopping concept closer to home," Burton said.

Champs has a healthy presence in Tampa Bay including stores at the DeSoto Square mall in Bradenton, where the chain's first-ever mall store opened in 1988 after it merged with the existing Robbie's. They are owned by New York-based Foot Locker, which is also bringing its own store to the mall, but carries different styles of footwear with a broader apparel selection, Burton said. Today, Champs has about 540 stores mainly in the Southeast.

Hiring for the store will typically occur 30 to 45 days before the opening, according to store officials.

Mall at UTC General Manager Octavio "Tav" Ortiz said while he couldn't talk about the plans for Champs or other stores that have filed permits, mall officials are making plans for their next round of store announcements.

"We're very happy where we're at leasing-wise," Ortiz said. "We continue to get leases in, and we're very excited for the mall to open Oct. 16."

Gymboree, Brooks Brothers coming

Along with Champs Sports, Gymboree and Brooks Brothers are the other latest stores to file plans to come to the new mall this fall.

Children's clothing store Gymboree will be 1,837 square feet, with 1,438 of that making up the sales floor, according to the filed permit.

Gymboree also has a store in Sarasota's Southgate Mall and an outlet at Ellenton Premium Outlets. The San Francisco-based retailer, founded in 1986, also runs children's clothing store Janie and Jack. It also has locations at International Plaza in Tampa and Mall at Millenia in Orlando.

Brooks Brothers' plans for its new store are becoming more clear. After announcing earlier this year the county club and business casual clothing store would be hiring for the new store, a building permit is now on file showing the store will be 8,335 square feet. That's about the same size of its Main Street Sarasota store, which is a 8,232-square-foot Country Club format location. Brooks Brothers also operates an outlet at Ellenton Premium Outlets.

The mall location will be the company's standard full-line retail store, according to the store's website.

Company officials from Brooks Brothers and Gymboree did not return requests for comment by deadline Monday.

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter@ImYourChuck.

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