Real-estate executives at a variety of retail companies citelower lease and common-area fee costs, a lack of new malldevelopment and convenience among their biggest reasons for wantingto enter open-air developments. "As mall growth slowed down, itmade sense," says Melissa Boughton, SVP of real estate atMinneapolis-based Regis Corp, the operator of 11,720 salons, whichopens about 1,000 units annually. "It's been a good option for us.We were on board early."

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United Retail Group, the Rochelle Park, NJ-based owner of 490Avenue women's apparel stores prefers open-air centers due to theircustomers' lifestyles, says Aaron Fleishaker, the retailer's SVP ofreal estate. "Working women don't have the time to go in and takethe mall experience," he says.

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But the retailers on the panel, all of which were proponents ofopen-air centers, didn't always agree on what types of thosedevelopments they prefer. For example, Cold Stone Creamery likescenters with open public spaces where people gather because itcreates opportunities for impulse purchases, says Brett Sheets, theScottsdale, AZ, chain's VP of real estate. But Fleishaker of UnitedRetail is not such a fan. "The first thing that comes to mind whenI hear about public space is CAM (common-area maintenance fees),"he says. "It just doesn't appeal to us."

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Boughton lauds mixed-use open-air developments. "I love itbecause you just get more population," the Regis Corp. executivesays. Golf Galaxy executives aren't interested in going into thosetypes of developments though, as rents tend to be too costly, saysPeter Harding, SVP of real estate of the Eden Prairie, MN-based65-store chain.

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Harding is also opposed to entering a center that houses aretailer selling products similar to those offered at Golf Galaxy."We're not in any centers that have a direct competitor, and itwould not be good for us if that was the case," he says. But66-restaurant seafood chain McCormick & Schmick's, of Portland,OR, prefers being close to other eateries because together theymake the center a dining destination, says Larry Summerton, thecompany's executive director of real estate development.

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When asked to name what other retailers they like to be near,panelists agreed on Costco Wholesale and Target Corp. But otherresponses were varied, ranging from Build-A-Bear Workshop to WholeFoods.

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