Money and Business

'Saks Off Fifth' closing its downtown Santa Barbara store

Saks Off Fifth closes State Street location

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Saks Off Fifth is moving out of its Santa Barbara location, leaving a 47,000-square-foot retail space to fill in the coming months.

The store, located at the corner of State Street and Carrillo Street, was formerly a Saks Fifth Avenue.

"We actually had a strong indication two years ago that our retail mix was declining when Saks announced they were going to Saks Off Fifth," said Maggie Campbell, the executive director of the Downtown Organization of Santa Barbara.

The move not to renew the lease also comes as no surprise to Ken Oplinger, the President and CEO of the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce, which represents 750 business members.

"What it means is that we've got another space that we need to find another use for or put another retailer back in there in the near future," Oplinger said.

Oplinger believes the downtown corridor is at the bottom of a retail cycle, with more than 40 vacancies on State Street.

"We do know there has been an increase, if you go back six months or a year ago, we were probably down to 30 vacancies," he said. "There's been  small increase happening every couple of months. We've seen some of these vacancies filled up, but not at the rate that we would like."

The reasons are varied, according to Oplinger.

"Everything from the 'Amazon effect' and folks who aren't going downtown to buy, folks who don't feel comfortable coming downtown because of issues like cleanliness or aggressive panhandling," he said.

Oplinger said the city has to continue to look for ways to make it easier to open and operate a business in the area, by lifting regulatory burdens and permit costs.

The downtown area is on the cusp of a new iteration, and Oplinger encourages locals to stay active in the process.

"We got to get to a point where we stop grousing about in that, we are going to step out and get this plan to together by working together to come up with how we want State Street to look," he said.

Campbell believes the departure of Saks could offer a "transformational" opportunity to turn the building into a mixed-used venture and help change the future of downtown.

Campbell said now is the time to "reinvent" and "reimagine" the area.

"What it's going to take is probably the biggest collaboration effort the city has ever seen," Campbell said.

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