Arts and crafts chain A.C. Moore will mark its Center City debut —a new flagship store on the bustling corner of Broad and Chestnut Streets in the Land Title Building – on April 11. It will be the 32-year-old chain’s first urban store in the country.
Experts say the move reflects a growing trend: Traditional big box retailers that target suburbanites are now shifting focus and resources to major downtown areas with growing populations.
The 30,000-square-foot A.C. Moore store will be housed at 100 S. Broad Street in what was the former space of f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) — near Capital Grille and the Ritz Carlton, and diagonally across from Walgreens.
“We wanted a space and location as special and iconic as we envisioned the store to be,” said Anthony Piperno, A.C. Moore's chief merchandising and marketing officer. “We looked all over the city, but something about this location, this building, kept drawing us back.”
Piperno said the size of the building, the interior layout, the lightness in the space, the history of the Land Title Building, and the energy of Broad and Chestnut made it a perfect fit.
“It is truly a space worthy of being a flagship location,” he said. “We fell in love with it instantly.”
Many observers see the arrival of A.C. Moore —which opened its first store in Moorestown, N.J., in 1985 — as more evidence of the resurgent retail real estate market in Center City.
The space became available in August 2014 for the first time in 15 years after tenant f.y.e. declined to exercise options to continue occupying what was then 25,000 square feet of space - 5,000 less than what A.C. Moore secured.
A.C. Moore will occupy the ground floor and mezzanine.
“A.C. Moore is competing for the national exposure that its competitors [Michael's, Blick] already have,” said Andi Pesacov, Cushman & Wakefield's senior director of retail services, who brokered the deal. “Not only to compete, but to win. It chose the 30,000-square-foot corner retail billboard location in the heart of Center City's central business district, surrounded by the newest retail and residential developments that redefine Philadelphia's aesthetic.”
Barbara A. Kahn, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, said the move was part of a national trend that includes Target. It, too, is going after urban dwellers in major U.S. downtowns with smaller, express-format stores that have easy online pickup. Four of these Target stores have opened or will open soon in the city.
“We are noticing a trend to smaller footprint stores, primarily in the urban areas,” Kahn said. “This reflects two realities: first the move of many stores to decrease the footprint of the brick and mortar stores. And second, because of shifting demographics, retailers primarily in suburban areas are following important customer segments into the cities.”
Catherine Timko, CEO of the Riddle Company, which does retail marketing and business development, saw a similar trend. "Tenants such as A.C. Moore, Target, and CB2 are simply responding to strong demand, pedestrian traffic, and density of disposable income — which is flourishing in urban markets such as this."
A typical A.C. Moore store is divided into several sections filled with supplies, including kids' crafts, a bead shop, and a design center that sells do-it-yourself kits. At 30,000 square feet, the Center City A.C. Moore will be about 50 percent larger than a typical store.
“To put it simply, it feels like home,” Piperno said of the store’s new space. “There is nowhere else in the country that we would rather call home to our first urban store, our flagship store.
“There was never a second choice for us,” he said. “It was always Philly and will always be Philly.”