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Our woman inside: Lisa Kocian reports from the Natick Collection

Posted by Ralph Ranalli September 5, 2007 01:43 PM

shirts.JPG
Shirts await shoppers at the Nordstrom in the new Natick Collection, which opens Friday.
(Globe file photo)

NATICK/REGION

Editor's note: Globe West staff writer Lisa Kocian got a sneak peek inside the new Natick Collection today and filed this dispatch. Stay tuned to Globe West Updates all day Friday for our Natick Collection Blog-a-thon, when we will be filing a steady stream of reports and dispatches from the much-anticipated grand opening.

I have seen the new Natick Mall -- sorry, The Natick Collection -- and it's pretty cool.

The new stores, including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, open Friday but reporters were allowed in today for a sneak peek. I shudder to think what the traffic will be like in two days -- let alone in December --but before I start critiquing, allow me to ooh and ah for a moment.

I like to shop. I'm usually a bargain shopper (after all, I make my living by writing) but I can still swoon over the high end stuff. The way it's set up, the stores work their way gradually from economical at the pre-existing Sears end to luxury retail at the Nordstrom/Neiman Marcus end. My personal favorites: vintage-y clothing and home store Anthropologie, which recycled the wood from an antique barn for its new store's interior and Sel de la Terre, a French brasserie that will open early for coffee and baked goods on an outdoor patio when the weather allows.

The Collection stores displayed varying degrees of readiness for Friday's opening. At body products store L'Occitane, workers unpacked shopping bags. Handbag giant Kate Spade was still under construction, with not a kelly green bag or dress in sight. Martin + Osa, a new store from the folks that brought us American Eagle, already has mannequins dressed, one in women's dark wash skinny jeans and another in a men's olive green puffy down vest.

The new two-level space -- which features more than 100 shops -- is light and airy. There is such an abundance of skylights that the addition actually seems to have a glass ceiling. Synthetic birch trees reach up toward the natural light, but instead of leaves there are metallic, primary green leaf-shaped cutouts. I'm not so sure about those; my first thought was of a kindergarten classroom and construction paper when I saw them.

Mall owner General Growth Properties aggressively courted retailers in the United States and Europe to get the best for shoppers, according to Michael McNaughton, vice president, of asset management for GGP's Northeast region.

For example, Williams-Sonoma and Coach were both prior mall tenants, but will be re-opening in the new addition with their largest prototype stores, he said. GGP was gunning for big, McNaughton said, like the new Hugo Boss store, which will be the only one in the Boston area to sell both men's and women's clothing.

-- Lisa Kocian

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