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BEVERLY HILLS, CA-Like that of Mark Twain, the death of retail is greatly exaggerated: even as some stores will close, other new concepts are waiting in the wings for their shot at prime locations, said speakers at the Urban Land Institute’s Retail conference, which concluded here on Thursday.

Though the International Council of Shopping Centers predicts that 150,000 stores will shutter this year, the association also noted that between 105,000 and 110,000 stores will open, said Greg Gunter, a vice president of 3rd Works Retail Services, San Diego.

“Today’s market is a tough one,” Gunter said. “It takes a special tenant to survive.”

Stores that will expand this year fall into a number of categories, said Alexandra Sotereanos, senior engagement manager of McMillan/Doolittle, a Chicago-based consultancy. Globalization, flanked brand strategies, experiential stores, customer contact and food all are part of today’s expansion, as well as behind some retailers’ closures.

“Just as products have a lifecycle, so do retailers,” Sotereanos said, offering the example of music stores, now nearly defunct. “We really need to think outside the box.”

The desire for fast fashion has propelled the growth of such global chains as H&M, Zara, and Mango. Other European retailers including British designer Karen Millen, Swedish chain Filippa K, Canadian store Aritzia, South Korea’s Who A.U. and the Japanese Uniqlo are taking U.S. locations.

Flanker brands, such as Neiman Marcus’ Cusp division, Abercrombie & Fitch’s Gilly Hicks and J. Crew’s crewcuts and Madewell also continue to grow.

“Retailers realize that one format isn’t going to last forever,” Sotereanos said. “So they figure out brand extensions.”

Value also is important. American Apparel, now with 225 stores in 19 countries, plans a total of 800 units worldwide. The Buckle plans 19 new stores, largely in existing markets, and Cato continues to expand in strip centers.

“TJX is going to be great in this market,” with continued openings and even international expansion, Gunter said.

Not all apparel expansion is value-oriented. The Sundance catalog has begun opening brick and mortar stores, with 15 units planned over 36 months – three already have opened, Gunter said.

And some growing chains are downright quirky, noted Ian Ritter, national online editor of GlobeSt.com. Atlanta-based Flip-Flop Shops, which sells nothing but the casual footwear, plans to grow from its current six units to 236 stores across north America in five years.

“As its CEO says, the concept ‘is so straightforward, it’s crazy,’” Ritter said.

Boot Barn, which sells Western Wear, has grown both through new store openings and acquisitions from 31 units last year to 81 stores today, he added.

On the food front, Panera Bread will open 80 units this year, while Tesco’s Fresh & Easy concept will continue to expand. Wal-Mart also is joining the fray, opening smaller stores to compete, Gunter said. Regional grocers such as Harris Teeter and Wegmans also will continue to expand, Ritter said.

More entertainment-oriented chains also are growing – GameStop, with 6,100 stores worldwide, plans 575 openings this year, with 175 of those in Europe.

Services, too, are important, with child-care centers expanding, including Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Crème de la Crème (growing from 21 units today to 30 units by 2010) on the upscale side, to the more moderate Children of America, Delray Beach, Fla., which plans to build on a 26-unit base by opening 12 to 15 locations this year.

Even a more prosaic service – the newsstand – is continuing to grow, if the location is right.

“Gateway Newsstands, is opening 50 units a year,” Ritter said. “But the CEO says he is not finding attractive rates, and is always buried at the back of the center.”

Experiential chains such as lululemon athletica (which sells yoga-related apparel), Cabela’s and even a Kohler spa also are expanding, Sotoreanos said.

And beleaguered parents may have alternatives to Chuck E. Cheese to entertain their youngsters.

“[Atlanta-based] Monkey Joe’s is Chuck E. Cheese without the pizza,” Ritter said. The Raving Brands division, with 32 locations now, will open 17 units this year.

Where will these chains locate? Likely in smaller spaces. When even Bloomingdales has created a smaller version (SoHo, named for the location of its first unit), downsizing is the current trend.

“All of these concepts,” Ritter said, “have been trying to push into these locations.”

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