JON CARAMANICA GOES SHOPPING:

Make It Depressing Edition

31CRIT-BROOKFIELD-PLACE-slide-UQ0P-jumboToday's Thursday Styles features steady Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's take on the beginning of the retail cavalcade that has descended upon the neighborhood immediately surrounding the World Trade Center's memorial as well as its re-imagining still under construction.
And he's finding it all a bit jarring.
Rather than focusing on just one store, he takes on the entirety of the Brookfield Place luxury mall featuring fresh new outposts from Gucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, Bottega Veneta an more among its roster of international status brands. Our shopper's overall thesis this week is that we shop to forget —to anesthetize ourselves against the adversity we encounter in life. In this case, he is obviously making a reference to the tragedy of September 11, 2001 which haunts the financial district in general, and he is really giving in to the ghosts. Of the mall he says, "It is a testament to the resilience of our real estate developers, if not our national mood. Here, at the heart of the city’s suffering, we are being told to shop: To spend is to be healed."
Perhaps we are somehow protesting the specter of international terrorism down town with the kind of luxury and profligate consumption specifically abhorred by our jihadist enemies, but hey, it's New York. We're just being ourselves. By that token, we could argue that the city's sprawling shopping culture exists to distract us from so many of the more disturbing aspects of our city. After all, it's not that we have seen a homeless person or two on Fifth Avenue, but that any city resident has encountered so many in every neighborhood no matter how tony it may be, not to mention everywhere in the public transit system.
But back to today's column, where our shopper has faintly admiring words for the just opened Gucci shop at Brookfield Place. It is the first New York example of the label's new creative director Alessandro Michele's re-imagined retail format for the brand. It's not all that different from the old format which features lots of handbags up front with lots of logos and red and green striped webbing. It's a respectable update that nicely shows off Michele's relentlessly eclectic, dressed-in-the-dark Resort collection, but The Shophound has to admit that we have had a lot harder time working up enthusiasm for a designer who thinks that putting a high, chunky heel on a gold leather version of you grandmother's house slippers makes than somehow appealing.
It does not.
Caramanaica calls the lineup of stores at Brookfield Place "shrug worthy" and it's true in the sense that it appears to includes not a single boutique that doesn't exist somewhere else in Manhattan in a larger and more comprehensive version. Perhaps it is the relentless retail drumbeat of the Holiday Shopping season combined with this year's weirdly balmy Holiday Season that has put his mood off, but still, he doesn't leave empty-handed. Our shopper remembers his professional purpose and picks up a smart overcoat at nearly 60% off from Club Monaco along with a bracing scented candle from Nest.

They all smelled the same until finally I landed on one — Sicilian tangerine — that was almost acidic. It had bite, the scent creeping up my nostrils and scraping away. Instinctively, I winced, but at the same time began to salivate. For a moment, death felt far away.

It's tough to stay down on shopping when it is an explicit part of one's work assignment. The choices are to rally or resign, but everyone is entitled to a case of the Holiday Blues once in a while. Like the neighborhood around Ground Zero, however, one eventually has to pick oneself up and carry on.

Critical Shoper: Shop the Pain Away By Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Brookfield Place New York 200 Vesey St at West Street, Financial District


EXPANSION EXCITEMENT:

Saks Fifth Avenue's Downtown Men's Store Has An Address

250VeseyStAfter a casual announcement that it was in the works earlier this Fall, it now appears that Saks Fifth Avenue's freestanding Men's store will land at 250 Vesey Street (pictured at right), not far from the full-line store in Brookfield Place that is scheduled to open this Summer.
The New York Post reports that the retailer has taken the space that was thought to be allocated to French chef Joël Robuchon for a gourmet restaurant and market. Perhaps it was decided that one French culinary hall, Brookfield's Le District, was enough for the area. Saks will reportedly be taking 16,750 square-feet on the second floor of what was originally called 4 World Financial Center which includes all of Robuchon's space plus an additional 4,000 square feet. The space overlooks the Battery Park City marina which will be a nice view for the store currently expected to open in March of 2017. Included with the larger full-line Women's store and an upcoming Off 5th unit on the other side of the World Trade Center complex at One Liberty Plaza, Saks will have an impressive presence in the Financial District, a neighborhood whose potency as a major shopping destination still has yet to be proved.

Saks in, Chef Robuchon out in downtown stunner (NYPost)


DOWNTOWN DANCE:

Where Will Saks Fifth Avenue's Separate Downtown Men's Store Go?

SFAMensBevHills
Like many bits of retail news, the announcement that Saks Fifth Avenue will open a stand-alone Men's Store in Downtown Manhattan was casually dropped as an aside in a news article concerning larger business issues. In a New York Times profile of Saks CEO Marc Metrick that ran over the weekend, the plan for a men's store was revealed in a discussion of Metrick's ambitious overall scheme for the department store in New York City. 

"Saks. . . is opening a second store in Manhattan, at Brookfield Place in the fast-growing financial district, and will follow with a third location, a men’s-only store, also downtown."

That's all we know so far.
Stand-alone men's store.
Downtown.
It's not totally surprising. Saks has a few freestanding men's only stores in the chain which tend to exist when a longtime full-line store nearby needs more room for women's apparel and an appropriate real estate opportunity makes itself available. In Beverly Hills, Saks took over the former I.Magnin store a few steps away from its Wilshire Boulevard flagship for a men's store in the 1990s (pictured above). In Washington DC, the chain opened a men's satellite in a former Filene's Basement space on Wisconsin Avenue that had originally been a Raleigh's men's store when expansion of its decades-old Chevy Chase store a few blocks away was nixed by local zoning boards. The difference here is that a men's store will be presumably built without having been gestated as a department within a full line Saks store and being spun off for more selling space. We know that Saks is coming to Brookfield Place next year with a new concept store currently under construction. Will the proposed men's store be a nearby counterpart in a neighborhood that, due to its business center heritage has traditionally been more welcoming to menswear retailing anyway? It seems plausible. Saks' two men's floors at the Fifth Avenue flagship certainly encompass enough square feet and merchandise to constitute a sizable stand-alone store by themselves, so the merchandising part of the store is mostly covered. The main questions here are where and when?

Saks Is Shaking Off Retail Gloom With a Fifth Avenue Face-Lift (NYTimes)


FOLLOWING SUITS:

Hickey Freeman Heading Back Downtown

HickeyThe Financial District remains a pull for retailers looking to expand in Manhattan, and Brookfield Place is confirming its position as the headquarters for luxury stores with the addition of a new Hickey Freeman boutique slated to open in January next to the upcoming Saks Fifth Avenue store. Commercial Observer is reporting that the fabled men's tailored clothing label has signed a 10-year leaser the 974 square foot store. While Brookfield place has collected an unprecedented group of luxury retailers for the neighborhood together, Hickey Freeman is the kind of merchant —traditional men's clothing— that has always found a home in lower Manhattan with its concentration of office buildings full of men in suits. While its last downtown store was a SoHo outpost for its erstwhile younger label, Hickey, the suit maker has had a rocky run over the past several years, with trouble at its parent companies and changes in ownership and creative direction that stalled its momentum. Things seem to have settled down now, and the brand tapped David Hart, one of GQ's Best New Menswear Designers for 2015, as its creative director earlier this year. The downtown store will be the brand's first under Hart's direction, so it should be a good hint of how a once stodgy suit maker will move forward into the future.

Hickey Freeman Dressing Up Lower Manhattan Dudes With New Store (Commercial Observer)


SAMPLE CIRCUIT:

Belgians Ann Demeulemeester & Haider Ackermann Team Up for An Exclusive Sale This Monday

Ann-Haider
Like we said, breaking Sample Sale news is coming hard and fast right now.
This time it's from Belgium buy way of FiDi.
C21-Edition at Century 21's next exclusive sale will from two of the labels most coveted by fans of Belgian fashion. Ann Demeulemeester and Haider Ackerman are having a special two-day "Friends & Family Shopping Event" starting on Monday the 11th, so if you haven't spent everything at the last-minute Marc Jacobs sale, here's another one to save some cash for. So far, few other details have been disclosed, so we are presuming that the sale will include both designers' men's and women's collections as well as shoes and accessories. Which seasons will be included remains to be seen, but we do know that an RSVP is required according to the notices, so click HERE to send an email to get yourself on the list. We don't know if it is totally necessary, but it can't hurt. Last week's similarly short and exclusive Nicholas Kirkwood sale was extended for several days, but, again, there's no way of knowing how this now will be handled.

See our SALE ROLL sidebar at left for more details, and stay tuned for more late-breaking sales.


GRAND OPENING:

Brookfield Place Is Sort Of Open-ish

Brookfield1
Downtown is happening.
The Financial District is a retail gold mine that has been woefully untapped, and when an unprecedented concentration of luxury stores around the World Trade Center opens up, rich people with money burning holed in their pockets will flock to the new mall full of coveted designer brand.
Eventually.
But not this week.
We must make it clear that The Shophound roots for retail projects to succeed, however pie-eyed they may seem. We don't like to see stores fail. It's depressing, so we are as hopeful as anyone that the extremely ambitious retail plan for the World Trade Center area succeeds, but if it happens, it won't happen overnight.
Since yesterday was the official opening day for the retail section that Brookfield Place created out of the old  World Financial Center, The Shophound decided that it was as good a time as any to see what they had made out of it —which leads to obstacle #1: Getting in there.
Unlike most most Manhattan shopping areas, you can't just stroll up to Brookfield place at the moment, at least not from the street. In fact it is easier to access the complex that includes the shopping section, the Hudson Eats food hall/court and the about to open Le District French-centric food hall if you are strolling along the Hudson River Park promenade. The entrances from West Street remain blockaded for long stretches that include the shopping center's main entrance. Even marked crosswalks are closed off, so the most direct way to get inside of the place is to backtrack two blocks east to the PATH train entrance at Greenwich and Vesey Streets and walk the length of the Santiago Calatrava Occulus structure underground to re-emerge at street level inside Brookfield Place. This is annoying but temporary, but it emphasizes the fact that Brookfield place will remain inconvenient to enter even for local shoppers for a little while.
Once inside, however there was no abundance of shoppers on opening day. Crowds were sparse on a drizzly Thursday afternoon, which made it the perfect time to finally grab an Umami Burger up in Hudson Eats without enduring a long line. Of course, not all the stores are ready, and the big luxury names, Hermès, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Ferragamo and others, are still gestating under plywood. Only about half the stores opened yesterday including bright and spacious new versions familiar shops like J.Crew, Vince, Theory, Bonobos and Diane von Furstenberg. Paul Smith was celebrating a lovely new store with Champagne, macarons and other sweets for all visitors, but, sadly, as with the other shops, earnest salespeople easily outnumbered customers, and we got the impression that this might be the case for some time to come. Many of the customers looked like they probably worked in the complex of buildings surrounding the shops, in shirtsleeves, unencumbered by coats, and probably taking a long awaited look through at the tail end of their lunch hours. That's a good thing. Part of the retail strategy there is to take advantage of the well paid working folk in the area as a captive customer base, but they may or may not be enough to support a mini-Madison Avenue, and it is basically the same sort of group that was there when the World Financial Center opened about 25 years ago. That turned out to be something of a disappointment. Retailers in the newer, reconfigured space will have to be content with a sort of time-release excitement that will hopefully bring more traffic over the course of coming year. Patience and deep pockets will be required because the immediate WTC are is still knee deep in construction which is unappealing to luxury shoppers who frankly don't need to go down there to get anything the mall has to offer. And the neighborhood tourists did not seem to be the sort of folks who would keep such a high-end collection of stores humming. We did not see a single store at Brookfield Place, open or upcoming, that wasn't already represented elsewhere in Manhattan at least once, and in most cases, several times over. In fact most of them are also open not far away in SoHo. It will be a challenge to convince most New Yorkers that they need to come to the Financial District to shop in a mall for things that are easily found in more charming New York-y shopping neighborhoods. And that's part of the challenge. It's a mall.
Nobody comes to Manhattan to shop in a mall, and successes like Columbus Circle are carefully tailored to the local neighborhood.
You can drive to Short Hills for a luxury mall, and, frankly, it's more exciting to stroll along Madison Avenue if you want to go to Hermès and Gucci and Bottega Veneta. There is nothing in Brookfield Place yet that you can't find anywhere else in Manhattan, which puts a lot of pressure on Le District to deliver on its promise. What is being touted as a "French Eataly" is opening a few sections today, most of the others by next Wednesday and is expected to be completely finished by May. It is the one thing there that hasn't been seen before elsewhere, and there is real excitement around it. Wealthy New Yorkers will go out of their way for a new food experience, and if Le District can keep them coming back, it will help the entire complex. Saks Fifth Avenue will probably not be open in Brookfield Place for at least a year, and the World Trade Center's retail projects look to be at least that far off, so if this area is destined to become the luxury retail mecca that real estate industry flacks are breathlessly touting, it's going to take a couple of years to build up to at the very least. We hope that everyone who opened to day can stick it out. We want to see them win in the end, but ravenous luxury shoppers who are expected to make Brookfield Place a success did not show up yesterday.
Brookfield2


SAMPLE CIRCUIT:

Diptyque Officially Makes Century 21 Your Newest Sample Sale Venue

C21-00
So this week's Ferragamo Sample Sale was no fluke.
The lavish C21-Edition vintage luxury accessory shop (pictured above) at Century 21's FiDi flagship may have been a little bit too ambitious of a concept for the longtime off-pricer pricer despite its recent refurbishment and upgrades. That's OK, because a new use for the space sees to be emerging and it's one we can never have too much of. Yesterday it was announced that the popular beyond reason Diptyque sample sale, one that has appeared to be missing from the current season's lineup, will indeed take place there next Wednesday through Friday, making it the second sample sale there in as many weeks. Get ready. We all love a nicely scented candle, but this sale traditionally brings out aggressive volume shoppers who have been known to pick the offerings clean within hours, let alone three days.
It's good timing for the Sample Sale world. 260 Sample Sale, Diptyque's former venue went gangbusters last year with three venues between its original Fifth Avenue site, a smaller one a few blocks downtown, and spacious one on Wooster Street that were consistently busy with major sales. For whatever reason, 260 Sample Sale is currently working only with its single original space, which means that many of its regular clients will need alternative arrangements to maintain their schedule. Enter C21-Edition, an unconventional, bi-level space (complete with an elevator) that served nicely for Ferragamo's last-minute sale and will host Diptyque next week.
There's no word on future sales scheduled at the space, but it looks like seasoned shoppers should get used to the idea of adding the corner of Dey and Church Street to their sale map.
See the SALE ROLL at left for the Dyptique sale details.


FLAGSHIP FLASH:

Nordstrom Is Still Looking For A Second NYC Store

NordstromFlagshipWith a major Midtown flagship on the way in a few years and Rack stores popping up in a few boroughs, WWD tells us today that Nordstrom is still looking for a spot for a second full line store in New York City. And where are they looking?
Downtown.
Big surprise, right?
Speculation centers around several Lower Manhattan sites ranging from spaces on Wall Street to the Howard Hughes Corporation's complete renovation of Pier 17. None of the potential spaces are perfect slam dunks. They will all take some serious negotiations, and Nordstrom, as we have seen from the previous rounds of rumors regarding the store that will eventually open around the corner of Broadway and 57th Street, will kick a lot of tires before they make a final decision. They are extremely picky about location (as they should be) and, in most cases, insist on building their stores from the ground up which will be extremely difficult if not impossible in the landmark-laden financial District. The World Trade Center retail spaces are said to be too small to accommodate the 230 square foot flagship sized store that the Seattle-based chain is looking to construct, even though space might have freed up now that the much rumored talks to sign luxury stores from Tiffany, Tom Ford and Giorgio Armani boutiques are now rumored to have stalled due to their potential proximity to both Century 21 and the upcoming Saks Off-Fifth. Pier 17 would be a dramatic spot that would allow the chain's preferred construction requirements, but it is the site of a previous retail project that was a colossal failure. Saks has taken the largest space in Brookfield Place, and that store is only going to be 85,000 square feet, a little more than a third of the size of the presumed Nordstrom store. That leaves other buildings around the area that may or may not fit Nordstrom's bill. We don't expect the chain to settle on a space anytime soon, but keep in mind that when Nordstrom wants to put a store somewhere, they eventually find a way to do it, so add another great big department store to the list of openings before the end of this decade. That makes one new Barneys, one Neiman Marcus, one new Saks Fifth Avenue and now, two Nordstroms coming to Manhattan.
Five big stores.
Let's just hope people keep spending.

Nordstrom Said Eyeing Downtown NYC (WWD)


RUMORS CONFIRMED:

Saks Fifth Avenue & Off-5th Both Confirmed For Downtown

SAKSBrookfield
Not to be upstaged by the retail game-changing announcement that Neiman Marcus will be coming to Manhattan, Hudson's Bay Company today confirmed the simmering rumors that Saks Fifth Avenue and its outlet offshoot Off-5th would indeed be coming to the Financial District. The luxury unit will be the first out of the gate less than two years from today. The city's second full line Saks store is set to open in Spring of 2016 in 85,000 square feet at Brookfield Place, serving as a valuable, traffic-generating anchor for the luxury mall that is slated to open there next year. While it will be dwarfed by the massive Saks flagship uptown, it will be much closer to the size of a typical Saks branch store, and will certainly be one of the largest retailers in the neighborhood. Next, in 2017, Off-5th will open a 55,000 square foot store at One Liberty Plaza, currently home to a Brooks Brothers branch, safely on the other side of the World Trade Center complex and right across Cortlandt street from what is bound to be its chief competitor in the area, Century 21.

In addition to the two new stores, HBC has also taken 400,000 square feet of office space in Brookfield Place for its New York corporate including space for both Saks Fifth Avenue and the also HBC-owned Lord & Taylor associates who will be relocating from midtown.

With the official announcement of an new Saks Store that makes a total of four major department store openings by the end of the next four years. Saks comes in 2016, Barneys will return to Chelsea in 2017 and both Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus are scheduled to open in 2018. Over the past few decades, the city has lost more department stores than it has gained staring with the demise of Gimbel's in the late 1980s, and then the closures of Bonwit Teller, B.Altman and A&S in the 90s. The new stores coming could potentially reshape Manhattan's shopping landscape. Let's hope there's as much business to go around as they are counting on.

Saks Confirms Downtown Opening (WWD)
Previously:
Rumor Confirmed: Neiman Marcus Plans A 2018 Arrival In Manhattan


RETAIL RESURRECTION:

J&R To Be Reborn
In The Basement Of Century 21

JRpolaroidThe folks behind J&R Music and Computer World may have found a way to make lemonade from the heaps of lemons they found themselves under last April. After an abrupt store closure, liquidation and the shutdown of its web store, The Shophound figured that the popular New York electronics and music superstore would never be heard from again despite plans for redevelopment and promises to reopen in the same Park Row spot within a year. We still don't think we're ever going to see another J&R superstore, but the brand isn't quite dead yet. In fact, the retailer has inked a deal to open a J&R Express music and electronics boutique on the lower level of Century 21's downtown flagship —only a block or so away from its original home. The 1,500 square foot shop will offer small electronics items, CDs, Movies and even a selection of vinyl records for the luddite discount shoppers/tourists who typically throng the recently expanded off-price flagship store. “Special music events … including performances and in-store meet and greets" are also promised as are other similar in-store shops. The set-up reminds us of a similar arrangement J&R had on the lower level of Macy's Herald Square for many years up until the recent renovations of that store began. It turns out that J&R probably will never be able to compete with the Amazons and Best Buys of the world again, but it may find itself a profitable niche providing music and electronics concessions to retailers who want to broaden their offerings but have little experience selling that particular category of merchandise.

Iconic J&R to re-open as boutique inside Century 21 (NYPost)
Previously:
J&R Shuts Down Its Superstore For Redevelopment And Promises To Reopen In 2015