Tampa will lose its Saks Fifth Avenue store in less than two weeks.
Saks Inc. announced Tuesday that it will close its Saks Fifth Avenue store at WestShore Plaza on May 4. WestShore says a new prototype DICK'S Sporting Goods store will open in that location in early 2014.
"It's always sad to lose a department store obviously, but we're actually very excited the backfill to that is DICK'S Sporting Goods," said WestShore general manager Jay Botsch. "It's a great fit to a very active market that we serve."
Saks spokeswoman Julia Bentley said speedy exit from the mall came because Saks worked with the landlord to expedite the arrival of DICK'S.
Employees at the Saks store, which opened in 1998, also found out about the closing on Tuesday. Saks says its 105 Tampa employees will be given transfer opportunities or severance.
"These decisions are always difficult. We are extremely appreciative of our Tampa store associates, several of whom have worked with us for many years," Saks Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Sadove said in a statement. "We are committed to giving our associates needed assistance during this period."
In a press release, Sadove also said the closing is "in line with our stategy of using our resources in our most productive Saks Fifth Avenue stores."
With the closing, Saks will have nine retail stores in Florida, including ones in Sarasota and Orlando. It also operates Off Fifth outlet stores, including ones in Orlando and Ellenton.
The closing took customers by surprise, including Helen Chung.
"I am shocked," said Chung, who drives from Clearwater to go to the store.
Chung said she probably won't drive to Sarasota or Orlando, but would rather do her Saks Fifth Avenue shopping on trips to New York.
Gibbs High School senior Amari Summerlin said she'd likely make the trip from St. Pete to the other stores, though. Summerlin recently bought her prom dress - a long shimmery gold gown - at Saks.
"I'm so disappointed cause I'm always shopping here, I like the clothes," Summerlin said.
Because the store is closing so quickly, it is not planning to hold a clearance sale, Bentley, the Saks spokeswoman, said. Remaining merchandise will be transferred to other Saks Fifth Avenue locations, she said.
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