June 1, 2007, 12:00 AM

While Discovery closes stores, another company opens stores for e-retailers

Convergent Retail, spearheaded by developer of the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, plans to open The Epicenter Collection—a grouping of stores for online and catalog merchants at a mall in Delaware.

While Discovery Communications is closing stores, Convergent Retail LLC is betting other retailers that sell only online and by catalog will want to try a physical store. The company, spearheaded by developer Sheldon Gordon who created such lavish retail locations as the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, last month announced plans to open what it calls The Epicenter Collection-a grouping of stores for online and catalog merchants at the Christiana Mall in Delaware.

“In a multi-channel world, consumers expect merchants to have retail stores,” says Antony Lee, CEO of Convergent Retail. He says Epicenter will provide retail tenants with much of the systems they need to run a store, including a handheld device called SpreeGo that will allow consumers to select products in the store with the same point-and-click motion they use online. By offering free home delivery, stores will be able to minimize the inventory they need on hand, Gordon says.

Convergent says Epicenter will open in mid-2008 and occupy 181,000 square feet in a former Lord & Taylor department store. The owner of that store, Macy’s Inc. (formerly Federated Department Stores), leased the store in exchange for an equity stake in Convergent Retail.

“It’s an interesting experiment,” says JupiterResearch analyst Patti Freeman Evans. “An online retailer can benefit from having an offline store so they can capture consumers who want the item today and who don’t want to pay for shipping. It provides an additional touch point, which can be a benefit particularly for products that are hard to understand online.”


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