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April 27, 2009 10:27 AM

Retail

Retail Quake in L.A.

The paparazzi may have to look for another hunting ground.Retailing in Los Angeles and environs is being slammed in the recession and even celebrity-friendly shopping streets like Robertson Boulevard are feeling it. Dozens of specialty retailers have closed across the...

The paparazzi may have to look for another hunting ground.

Retailing in Los Angeles and environs is being slammed in the recession and even celebrity-friendly shopping streets like Robertson Boulevard are feeling it. Dozens of specialty retailers have closed across the metro area and others are shrinking. Store owners are trying to get creative in their approach to business, and most say they'll emerge from the downturn with an altogether different way of doing things.

"I don't know what my business will look like in two years, but it certainly won't be what it is right now," said Lisa Kline, who said she'll press on with her namesake stores on Robertson, but recalibrate her operation in order to survive. "We'll re-emerge as a whole different business, and that's what I'm trying to figure out right now. There was too much sameness and it's killing people off -- some of whom shouldn't have even been in business in the first place, but also others who shouldn't have gone under."

There's certainly plenty of acrimony involved. Retailers staggering under the weight of high rents lambast landlords who raised prices at the height of the real estate market.

Store owners bemoan deep and early holiday discounts at the major department stores, which hastened the bloodletting among the small high-end boutiques that couldn't keep up in the discounting wars.

There appears to be no safe haven.

"Things will improve, but before then I think we'll see more failures," said Fred Levine, owner of Southern California's 10-store M. Fredric chain. "We'll see more of every business failing if the consumer confidence level doesn't change. Nobody, I mean nobody, can last indefinitely under these conditions. And it will never be the same as it once was."
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