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Plaza Las Americas Thrives As Ambassador In Retail World

Development of Internet initiatives on their way; new stores, restaurants, and entertainment options to open soon

by Lucienne Gigante

June 8, 2000
Copyright © 2000 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

LAS VEGAS, Nev.--The International Council of Shopping Center’s (ICSC) annual spring convention in Las Vegas brings together about 30,000 shopping center developers and retailers worldwide for a week of negotiations, networking, trend-searching, and seminars.

For the past 12 years, Plaza Las Americas has had a booth at the ICSC convention, giving the shopping center–and Puerto Rico–great exposure. With 38,000 members, the ICSC is the global trade shopping center association.

CARIBBEAN BUSINESS met with Jaime Fonalledas, president of Plaza Las Americas and Rebecca Maccardini, past ICSC chairman and marketing consultant for the shopping center during a very busy week at the Plaza Las Americas booth.

"We have a great story, which is basically the sales performance at Plaza. But we have another great story, which is Puerto Rico," said Fonalledas. "The first thing we have to sell here is Puerto Rico, which is a very positive story of growth and opportunity."

"There was a time when people didn’t understand the potential available in Puerto Rico," Maccardini added. "What is true is that the numbers one hears for Puerto Rico related to income and so forth don’t really tell the story."

"Researchers for retail chains who make decisions based solely on numbers to probably won’t make that decision [to establish operations here]. You have to come to Puerto Rico and understand that this market possesses some very unique characteristics."

Plaza Las Americas’ numbers surely fill in the blanks; 100% occupancy rate for more than two decades, 1999 per-square-foot sales average of $700, and more than 50 retailers–including 70% of its food tenants–exceeding $1,000 per-square-foot sales. Simply put, the shopping center reigns supreme in the local retail industry.

"Long before I was associated in any way with Plaza, I knew about Plaza. It is almost like an ambassador, representing something very powerful on the island. And most new retailers have come in first to Plaza," said Maccardini, who has more than 30 years of experience in the retail industry.

"Nobody makes a decision in a vacuum. If you do, you have to be very brave and aggressive and that is the merit of companies like JCPenney and Sears, which came to Puerto Rico in the days when nobody else was doing it," said Fonalledas, adding that JCPenney made a decision 32 years ago to expand its Plaza Las Americas store to its third largest, now the chain’s largest. Still a top-selling store, Sears is preparing to undergo a major renovation.

"Plaza Las Americas is a franchise in itself. It is a brand, a main location, and almost all the stateside retailers are aware of it because many of those having local presence make such big volumes. The fact that so many of them have been successful is very helpful as we move through the next phase."

Soon to open

This fall, Plaza Las Americas will open doors to its third anchor, a 255,000-square-foot Macy’s, the first in Puerto Rico.

"I think Macy’s will definitely bring in a new way of doing business in Puerto Rico. They will fill a gap that is out there and nobody is attending. People wanting this type of service had to travel," said Fonalledas. "They are going to be very aggressive. It’s a big investment since they are building its own store. And the merchandise mix will be very exciting and fashion-oriented."

Plaza is also adding some 390,000 square feet of specialty retail. "We are in a critical construction and leasing stage of the expansion," Fonalledas said. "Every time you go to Plaza, something new will be happening. This will be going on for at least another year, the bulk of it occurring between now and Christmas," Maccardini added.

The south mall area, where Borders Books and Music is located, will also feature a two-level, 31,000-square-foot Old Navy this summer. Also opening in the summer is a 13-screen multi-plex. Theme restaurants will be located in the area.

Plaza will also be adding a variety of restaurants on its first floor. Before year’s end, the mall will feature about 10 restaurants on the south side of the mall, which will be a combination of popular-priced local and stateside concepts.

Meanwhile, as the retail bricks & mortar world embraces e-commerce, Plaza Las Americas is already developing an internet initiative to will be disclosed later, noted Fonalledas, adding that Marcos Rodriguez-Ema is in charge of the project.

Next year, the third floor of JCPenney’s previous site will be connected through a covered canopy to La Terraza. JCPenney’s third floor will feature a 55,000-square-foot entertainment and restaurant area. "We are talking to major entertainment users and will provide different and exciting entertainment options, but at this point we don’t have signed leases," he said.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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