New York • For all the concern that the U.S. economy may be slowing, retailers from Express Inc. to Finish Line Inc. are poised to spend the most on capital improvements since the recession.
Having focused on growing online and internationally in recent years, retailers are accentuating the shopping experience in an effort to boost sales amid increasing online competition. With consumer spending on the rise, the industry will boost capital spending to $35 billion this year, compared with $29 billion in 2009, according to Fitch Ratings.
"We think the consumer is getting more confidence, and with that, the stores are getting more confident to expand," said Laura Pomerantz, founder of commercial real estate advisory firm PBS Real Estate in New York. "Stores have to be entertainment, they have to be service-oriented, which has clearly become very, very important to the consumer."
Now that they are opening fewer stores, retailers are trying to extract more dollars from each one. Store designers are striking a balance: making stores more Weblike, with mobile check-outs and kiosks, while turning them into hangouts, where shoppers can experience a retailer's brand in ways they can't online.