KISSIMMEE, FL-Despite a weakening retail sales climate nationally, many chain stores have not yet tempered their new-store expansion plans, and this state will be home to much of that growth. A group of retail executives spoke here at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Florida Conference to detail their new-unit plans.

“We’re really excited about the sales volume we’re seeing,” says Deb Chappell, director of real estate at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, which recently opened its first location in Orlando. The 63-restaurant chain, based in Huntington Beach, CA, now has three Florida and is looking for more, from the southern part of the state to Jacksonville, she says.

Apparel chain Coldwater Creek is also making headway into the state, with plans to open about 30 stores in the state on top of the 12 it already operates over the next five years. The Sand Point, ID-based company’s new spa concept, of which there are now six across the country, will open its first Florida location in October.

Red Rock Canyon Grill, an Oklahoma City-based Southwestern restaurant concept, with locations in the Midwest and Washington DC area is opening a location in Orlando, and executives are also looking in the Miami area. The chain is looking at central-business districts, lifestyle centers and freestanding locations. “We’re looking for sites that are very identifiable,” says Michael Sipes, the company’s chief operating officer.

While looking in Florida, many retailers are also seeking certain types of developments, like upscale town centers and lifestyle developments. Included in that group is Fort Myers, FL-based Chico’s FAS, which operates 607 namesake units, 287 White House/Black Market stores and 63 Soma By Chico’s lingerie stores. “They’re really looking for a sense of place, an experience,” says Dan Welch, the retailer’s senior director of real estate, of his customers. “Architecture is important.”

Meanwhile, Orlando-based developer Crossman & Co. has signed upscale grocer the Fresh Market to anchor the Villages, a 1.2 million-sf mixed-use center here. The grocer currently has seven stores in the state.

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