http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2011/11/25/bart-a-boon-for-stoneridge-sales


Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - November 25, 2011

BART a boon for Stoneridge sales

Retailers report an increase in sales; police predict no increase in shoplifting

by Glenn Wohltmann

The decorations may have been up for weeks, but today marks the official start of the holiday shopping season with many stores at the Stoneridge Shopping Center opening their doors at 4 a.m., and some that opened at midnight.

Historically, today is Black Friday, a name coined in Philadelphia in 1966, when shoppers would crowd center city, bringing massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks. The name was co-opted by retailers sometime in the 1990s, when today, the busiest shopping day of the year, was repurposed to mean the time of year that they moved from red ink on their books and into the black.

Those who turned out early came out to find giveaways in addition to the bargains that drove them out of their beds in the predawn hours with offerings like free coffee and live entertainment.

The new West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station near Stoneridge Shopping Center opened Feb. 19, and retailers at the mall are hoping for crowds to tumble off the trains and into the stores today. Some said they've already seen a BART-driven spike.

Joe Flores, supervisor at Quiksilver, which sells clothes to younger men and women, said he noticed a bump in sales almost as soon as the new station opened. At the time, Flores was working at GameStop, which sells video games.

"Off the bat I saw more people coming in. It was a more diverse group," Flores said. "Now we've got people coming in from Richmond or Concord or San Francisco."

He said many of those coming in are younger, too.

"They're in their mid 20s, around there. There's some older people that come, but mainly mid 20s, early 30s," Flores said, adding that this made a big difference in GameStop's sales for the fiscal year.

"We didn't double our year but we got really close," he continued.

He said he's noticed a huge change in the ethnicity of shoppers as well.

"Before, it was like 80% Caucasian. After BART opened it went like to 50, it's almost half and half. ... It's just really cool seeing people come in from different places."

Store Manager Grace Moreno of women's clothier Forever 21 has seen the same thing.

"It's a lot more diverse than it was before," Moreno said. "The month has been good. There's a lot more people here (and) when it comes to traffic, we're seeing a lot more traffic."

Moreno said sales at her store haven't gone up that much, but said clothing is generally a last-minute item for people to buy.

Carrie Williams, director of marketing and business development for Simon Property Group, which owns Stoneridge, said she's seen an uptick in sales, but couldn't say whether that's because of BART or an improvement in the economy.

"We're happy there's another way for our shoppers to get here. It's hard for us to pinpoint BART," Williams said. "It's hard for us to pinpoint that, whether it's BART or an increase in shopping."

She said she's seen an increase in the number of parking spaces available to customers, and that the holidays may give a better sense of BART's impact.

"I think it's going to be a very convenient way (to go shopping), because our parking lot gets really full here," Williams said.

She's also made arrangements for the shopping center's holiday train, which picks up customers at the far reaches of the parking area, to swing by the BART station as well.

Danniele Wharton, manager of Hot Dog on a Stick, said she saw a spike in sales right away.

"When it first came, we were really busy. Our sales were up about 10%," Wharton said, adding that sales have leveled off since then.

She added that being able to ride in has made a difference for workers.

"I think it's more for the employees, that they take BART in."

In addition to the usual offerings at Stoneridge, the Red Cross has blank greeting cards at guest services for people to send to soldiers. And gift wrapping will be done at two separate locations, by cheerleaders from California High and volunteers from the Taylor Family Foundation, which operates Camp Arroyo for children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses.

Along with shoppers and employees comes the potential for thieves. Flores said he saw a slight increase in shoplifting when he was at GameStop.

"It wasn't that bad, it went from like 12% to 14%," he said.

However, based on statistics, shoplifting has not gone up at all since Stoneridge BART opened.

"Since BART's opening in February, we have not seen a substantive increase or peak in any criminal activity at the mall, looking at the numbers," said Pleasanton police Lt. Jeff Bretzing.

He said police took 129 shoplifters into custody in 2010 and 133 in 2009.

"We've had 113 cases to date this year," he said. "With just a little under a month left this year, I'd suspect it will come in right around 130, Again, based on the stats, we don't expect any increase."

That's not because of an increased police presence, Bretzing said, although he added that there will be more officers out from now until the end of the year.

"As we do every year during the holiday season, we increase our staffing at the mall and we will be doing that this year as well," he said. "The holiday season itself always brings in more shoplifters. I don't think we're going to see a specific increase relative to BART itself, given the statistical data measured thus far. We don't have any reason to believe that the number of shoplifting arrests will be any higher this year than in any previous year."

Bretzing said he spoke to police in San Leandro before BART opened here, but said the Stoneridge Shopping Center is a very different environment than the Bayfair Mall.

Meanwhile, some retailers at Stoneridge are reporting increased sales for November, which could be a positive sign for the Christmas season or could be simply a sign that people are shopping earlier.

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