Luxury fashion store Saks Off 5th to be replaced by a luxury ... Walgreens?

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The soon-to-close Saks Off 5th store in downtown Minneapolis will be replaced by a Walgreens, but not as we know it.

The Illinois-based drugstore chain will take on 38,000 of the 50,000 square feet vacated by Saks, the Star Tribune reports, using the first floor and part of the second, fronting on to Nicollet Mall and South Seventh Street.

But the new store will not be a typical Walgreens, with spokesman Phil Caruso telling the Star Tribune the space will be filled with a "higher-end, marquee" store format.

Walgreens' marquee shops are a smaller-version of the "flagship" stores that have opened in cities such as Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles in recent years as the firm looks to expand its appeal to upmarket shoppers.

These stores have gained attention for their upscale offering, selling freshly-rolled sushi, juice bars and an extensive wine selection, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The Business Journal says the store in downtown Minneapolis will be a smaller version of the flagship, but should still offer "fresh foods, wine, groceries and enhanced beauty product offerings."

Walgreens is expected to only fill 23,000 square feet of space initially, according to the Business Journal, about twice the size of a traditional Walgreens.

Saks Off 5th will close on Jan. 31, with the loss of 50 jobs. The existing Walgreens on Nicollet Mall is also expected to close when the new store opens.

The remaining 12,000 square feet of space in the Saks unit will be remodeled for retail use and should be ready by July 2015, new building owners United Properties told the Star Tribune.

'Strong start' for holiday shopping season

There is good news for retailers across the country, as the holiday shopping season has got off to a "strong start", according to a survey by MasterCard.

Retail sales rose by 2.3 percent in November, the Pioneer Press reports, with hotel, restaurant and hardware sales driving the increase. The rise would have been 3.6 percent, were it not for the drop in gas sales resulting from plummeting oil prices.

It follows what appeared to be a strong Thanksgiving weekend for retailers in the Twin Cities, with 280,000 people passing through the doors of the Mall of America on Thanksgiving evening and Black Friday alone, while Target and Best Buy reported a surge in online sales.

The MasterCard survey found that total sales over the holiday weekend across the country rose 0.9 percent, and expects total retail sales over the Christmas period to rise 5.5 percent, higher than earlier forecasts, the Pioneer Press notes.

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