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CLERMONT, FL-Kohl’s Corp., a 542-unit, mid-priced department store chain based in the Milwaukee suburb of Menomonee Falls, WI expects to break ground in 2004 on its first Florida location, retail brokers and industry consultants in a position to know tell GlobeSt.com.

The chain’s Florida debut is expected to be with an estimated 90,000-sf store at a commercial center next to the Spring Valley subdivision on US 27 in Lake County, about 20 miles west of Downtown Orlando. The Sembler Co. of St. Petersburg, FL is expected to develop the store site for Kohl’s, brokers following Sembler’s Spring Valley project, tell GlobeSt.com.

Kohl’s is also considering sites for additional new metro Orlando stores in Altamonte Springs, Winter Park and east Orange County, retail sources tell GlobeSt.com. Outside of Orlando, the Wisconsin retailer is looking a locations in Tampa and Jacksonville.

Although the chain’s planned Florida debut has been rumored for months, the big news for the area’s industrial real estate community would be learning where Kohl’s plans to build a regional distribution center to handle its newly developed Florida stores. If Kohl’s decides to build a distribution center in Central Florida, it would probably be in the one-million-sf range, brokers tell GlobeSt.com. “That is a great question,” acknowledges John M. Crossman, senior vice president, investment services, Trammell Crow Co. Crossman says the size “would certainly be substantial. It really depends on where their regional hub is.”

Kohl’s officials declined comment on the company’s development plans in Florida. But in a prepared statement on Kohl’s November sales, company CEO Larry Montgomery says the firm plans to open about 95 new stores in fiscal 2004. In the first quarter, 47 new stores will be opened “between new market entries and fill-ins in existing markets.”

New markets cited by Montgomery include Sacramento, San Diego and Fresno, CA and Memphis, TN. “The remaining new stores to be opened in existing markets will be spread across all regions of the country,” Montgomery says.

Kohl reported sales for the four-week period ended Nov. 29 increased 9.3% over the same period in 2002. But on a comparable store basis, sales decreased 4.4%.

“November sales results were lower than expected,” Montgomery says. “We experienced high single-digit comparable store sales declines over the first three weeks of the month. Cold weather broke in the last week and a strong start to holiday selling resulted in a high single-digit comparable stores sales increase in the final week of the month.”

Kohl’s, once considered the darling of Wall Street for its rapid store openings across the country, was trading at $45.96 on the New York Stock Exchange at noon Dec. 8, down from $47.35 on Dec. 5 and well off a 52-week high of $71.70 per share.

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