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Chain, chain, chains

    Retailer T.J. Maxx opened three stores in Hawaii this year, one of several national chains expanding in the islands.

A flood of national retailers has opened in the islands in recent years, and more chains are eyeing the Aloha State for potential expansion.

Hawaii has become an attractive choice for retail giants exploring ways to increase revenue in new lucrative markets.

Target Corp., T.J. Maxx and Safeway are just a few of the national chains that have opened new stores here.

T.J. Maxx, a discount retailer that left the islands in 1996, even made a decision to re-enter the market this year despite expansion from rival Ross Dress for Less, which has 13 stores in Hawaii, according to the company website, with two more on the way.

The retailer, part of the TJX Cos. Inc. based in Framingham, Mass., opened three Hawaii stores within the same month at Ward Centers, Pearl City Gateway and Pearlridge Center after a 16-year absence.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret opened its third Hawaii store at Pearlridge Center in June and Ala Moana Center welcomed the state’s first Bath & Body Works a little more than a year ago.

"Overall you’ve got to look at our marketplace. It has limited competition. If you’re only one of two retailers that provide this type of goods, you pretty much have the opportunity to capitalize on (that)," said Mike Hamasu, director of consulting and research at Colliers International. "Generally what you have is an opportunity to capitalize on a captured market because you couldn’t drive to the Big Island or Maui to buy something. You’re stuck on this island."

Retail sales in Hawaii grew to $27.8 billion in 2011 from $24.3 billion the previous year.

Other big-name retail chains that have been interested in developing a local presence include Kohl’s, Bloomingdale’s and H&M, according to local real estate brokers. Hawaii also has seen significant investment by shopping center developers such as General Growth Properties Inc., which is spending an estimated $500 million to buy back the Ala Moana Center lease from Sears, and redevelop the site for a more profitable use, according to New York investment banking and equity research firm Sandler O’Neill & Partners LP.

The Chicago-based mall owner is planning an expansion of the Sears wing that will extend the retail footprint of the state’s largest mall out to Piikoi Street and up four levels, doubling the retail space at the Ewa end of the mall, according to a General Growth site plan.

Meanwhile, Safeway Inc.’s real estate development arm is busy building new shopping centers, some of which the grocery store will occupy. Property Development Centers plans to build a $50 million retail complex on undeveloped land across Kapolei Parkway from the Kapolei Commons shopping center; as well as the proposed Puu­nene Shopping Center on Maui, where Target has agreed to open its fifth Hawaii store. Other pending projects include a shopping complex in Ewa Beach that is under construction and one on Kauai that is nearing construction.

In addition, DeBartolo Development LLC recently announced retailers that will occupy the initial phase of an envisioned $350 million regional shopping center in East Kapolei called Ka Makana Alii.

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