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The Sunshine Economy

The Reality Of Retail

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This program originally aired on Aug. 26, 2013.  

If you've wandered the hallways of the Dadeland or Aventura Malls or walked down Lincoln Road in Miami Beach on a Sunday afternoon, you know shopping in South Florida can be a full contact sport.

South Florida is home to both the biggest outlet mall in the United States (Sawgrass Mills) and the shopping destination generating the highest sales per square foot in the world (Bal Harbour Shops.) The reality of retail is a reflection of two of our most important industries; real estate and tourism.

The next Sunshine Economy rings up retailing to find out what's fueling their businesses.

City Furniture CEO Keith Koenig has seen his share of real estate booms and busts from his company's couches and living room sets. He owns the company he has run since the 1970's, selling furniture across Florida. Even as the housing market collapsed, Koenig was growing and opening new stores. With home prices on the rebound, so is his business. He talks to the Sunshine Economy about the sustainability of the recovery, as seen from his furniture sales.

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Join host Tom Hudson every Monday at 9:00 a.m. for WLRN's ongoing series, The Sunshine Economy, a weekly look at the key industries transforming South Florida into a regional powerhouse.

Miami Herald's Karen Rundlet takes us on a tour of two of the most distinctive South Florida shopping destinations: outlet mall Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise where tourists bring empty suitcases to fill and Lincoln Road in Miami Beach charging some of the highest retail rents and seeing plenty of stores wanting to be near the beach.

What makes these shopping locations special? And how can they continue to distinguish themselves as big national retailers move in?

Sweat Records and Books & Books are far from big national retailers. They are both home grown, independent, brick and mortar retailers surviving in the Internet age for book and music shoppers. Lauren Reskin's Sweat Records is seven years old, making it through a hurricane and two changes of address thanks to its increasing focus on vinyl records. The picture (above, top right) is her checking the stacks of newly released 12-inch LPs in her store.

We also visit Bal Habour Shops to hear from Matthew Whitman Lazenby, the grandson of its founder.  It is a relatively small collection of shops as measured by square footage, but thanks to the high end luxury retailers calling it home, shoppers spent $2,763 per square foot there in June. That's the highest sales per square foot of any shopping destination in the world. By the way, those retailers don't want to call it a "mall."

And we hear from Miami Herald's Ina Cordle about how this trend toward luxury retailers opening in South Florida is extending to food shops.

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  The Sunshine Economy series is sponsored by Kaufman Rossin and Companyone of Florida's largest independent accounting firms.

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In a journalism career covering news from high global finance to neighborhood infrastructure, Tom Hudson is the Vice President of News and Special Correspondent for WLRN. He hosts and produces the Sunshine Economy and anchors the Florida Roundup in addition to leading the organization's news engagement strategy.