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ORLANDO-Retail development consultant David W. Marks says creating Downtown retail districts is one of the hottest topics in retail development circles.

But don’t tell that to the developers of the 1.3-million-sf Mall at Millenia and the expanded 1.8-million-sf Florida Mall, only four miles apart in south Orlando and a good 10 miles from Downtown. They couldn’t care less about Main Street USA right now.

“That’s where all the action and conversation is going on right now,” Dean Fritchen, senior associate, Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Services, Winter Park, FL, tells GlobeSt.com, referring to the south Orlando scene.

Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom–all new to metro Orlando shoppers–are competing for experienced and entry-level staffers at stores slated to open in mid-October.

An estimated 6,000 sales and management staffers will be needed by the major and minor retailers between now and year end to fill positions in an estimated five million sf of new space that has been added to metro Orlando’s total retail inventory of 47 million sf in the past 18 months, brokers tell GlobeSt.com

Mall at Millenia, being jointly developed at an estimated cost of $250 million by Taubman Centers Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, MI and Forbes Co. of Detroit, is expected to be 100% leased by the opening Oct. 28 date, area retail brokers following the development tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

The Florida Mall, a Simon Property Co. development, is also reported to be near capacity on its tenant roll.

But leasing problems are taking a back seat these days to filling vacant salesperson slots, brokers and consultants tell GlobeSt.com. Some of the new players are even recruiting seasoned help from established retailers such as Atlanta-based Saks Inc.

“Overall, Florida lost about 4,500 retail jobs over the past 12 months,” Marks, president, Marketplace Advisors Inc., Maitland, FL, tells GlobeSt.com. “Among all retail categories, grocery stores were among the hardest hit, with a net loss of 9,700 jobs.”

In the general merchandise category, where Wal-Mart Stores Inc. dominates, there was a net increase of 3,300 jobs, Marks says.

But finding polished staffers to cater to affluent shoppers at both Mall at Millenia and Florida Mall is a big problem facing the new players even though they don’t care to acknowledge that fact, consultants tell GlobeSt.com.

“You can’t put an entry-level salesperson, earning $20,000 to $30,000, in a high-end jewelry store such as Tiffany’s, for example,” one broker tells GlobeSt.com. “You need the big hitters who are used to earning salary plus commission of at least $50,000 a year.”

That may already have been accomplished at some of the larger stores, published reports indicate.

For example, at Mall at Millenia, Macy’s is reported to have hired 65% of its planned 532-person staff with 50% working fulltime. Bloomingdale’s is supposed to have filled 80% of its 193 slots with 50% at fulltime. Neiman Marcus is at 40%, looking for 250 salespersons with 90% of them fulltime.

At Florida Mall, Lord & Taylor is 100% staffed with 50% of its 193 jobs at fulltime status. Nordstrom, however, hasn’t hird anyone yet for its planned 400 positions.

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