There was one thing we were all certain of when the Nordstrom Flagship near Columbus Circle was announced: It was going to take a looooong time to build.
Initially announced as part of new wave of midtown skyscraper buildings, the upcoming store began to grow as it acquired space across the street at 3 Columbus Circle and then it was announced that adjacent buildings at 1776 Broadway and 5 Columbus Circle would be incorporated into the growing flagship including major restoration work on parts of the storefronts —which will probably make it take even longer. There's one part of the store, however, that shouldn't be hampered by complicated construction issues, and that's the Nordstrom Men's Store that is slated to open across the street. While the opening date of the main store has been pushed to 2019, new signage in the windows of the upcoming men's unit announces a Spring 2018 opening, a full year, at least, ahead of it mothership (pictured at right). Obviously, the advantage here is that the store will open in a building that has already been built, and like any good retailer, the chain wants to get this freestanding component open as soon as possible. This will make Nordstrom only the second major store in Manhattan to house its men's department in a completely separate building on another block since Bergdorf Goodman opened its Men's Store nearly 27 years ago at 58th Street and Fifth Avenue. It helps that Nordstrom has one of the most developed Men's businesses of all the higher-end specialty department store chains. It has long been said among menswear vendors that if Nordstrom is one of your clients, it is likely to be your largest, and over the past decade, the company has made great efforts to evolve its menswear offerings from traditional middle-of-the-road fare to a broader assortment including more international designers and directional labels. We will likely see more evolution in the new store as executives have already promised an extra-special presentation for New York. As the city's erstwhile men's tailored clothing champion, Barneys New York, has jettisoned all but the most luxurious tier of its men's suit offerings, there is an opportunity for Nordstrom to pick up some of that slack as the city is still home to substantial legal and financial industries where lots of men still need nice suits for work. Now, we can be fairly certain that there is less than a year to wait to see how Nordstrom will address New York's menswear market as well as to see the first glimpse of the massive upcoming flagship project.
In an unexpected but only marginally surprising move, Ralph Lauren will be shuttering the splashy Polo flagship store on Fifth Avenue as a cost cutting measure. It turns out that the high profile, loss leader flagship stores we have come to know so well in New York are not the investment in publicity that they once were. WWD is reporting that the store closure along with other measures including a workforce reduction and an updated digital platform will save the company a not insignificant $140 million per year after an initial $370 million cost.
Opened less than three years ago, the Polo store was meant to be represent a grand relaunch of the Polo brand for Lauren. it was to put the designer's original brand back into the spotlight with the rebranding of his women's "Blue Label" collection to make Polo a masterbrand for men and women along with a newly designed label. Its Fifth Avenue location should have been a tourist magnet, and the attached restaurant became one of the most coveted reservations in town. This is the first indication we have heard that the lavish three-level store has not lived up to expectations, although when it opened we were struck by impression that though the store is very large, it offered little in terms of newness in either environment or product. Lauren still remains content to draw from the same creative wells he has established over his 50 years in business. That leaves us with a whole bunch of reinterpretations of reinterpretations of the same things he has been making for years., which may be the root of his company's current troubles. At any rate, the "way forward" business reorganization plan that the company has been following seems to be the on right track in shedding some of the behind the scenes excesses that has always plagued the organization, but it is somewhat surprising to see it extended in such a high profile way. At least it shows that they are serious about setting the business right.
There is no closing date announced for the store, and the company is not giving up on new retail concepts, and it identified the Ralph's Coffee counter within the Polo store as a future opportunity. We also expect a newer, more modestly sized Polo store to appear somewhere in Manhattan to maintain the label's presence. With all this cost cutting, we immediately thought about the future of the cult-sized RRL label which has gone through several iterations before settling on an antique-inspired menswear theme. The collection is presented with evocative stores in Los Angeles and SoHo, but not a business on the scale that might warrant its continuation at this point under the company's apparent willingness to make hard choices. One has to wonder if the big RRL store on West Broadway, which has also had a series of lives under Lauren, might be headed for yet another transformation into a Polo store?
The store is slated to close on April 15, only a week and a half away, however, the popular Polo Bar restaurant is expected to remain open as far as we can tell.
After leading a nomadic existence for the past several years, Fendi's residency in SoHo will finally become permanent when it moves into its mew location for the foreseeable future at 99 Greene Street. The fabled Roman luxury brand has taken out 6,000 square feet where it will be able to spread out and present its full offerings after occupying a series of pop-up along the same road. Joining Fendi will be Italian outer and casual wear brand Herno which has also taken space in the building. As far as we can tell, this will be Herno's first U.S. store, designed to raise the European brand's status in the U.S. from cult label to mainstay. Both stores are expected to debut sometime this spring, and they will join a host of tony brands on the block including Dior, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton and Jimmy Choo among others.
We have known for months that Apple was planning a major renovation for its busiest 24-hour flagship store on Fifth Avenue, but now comes word that the refresh will include a doubling of the store's size from 32,000 to over 77,000 square feet —and it's going to take a while. Apple's current store incorporates what was once a below-grade open-air plaza in front of 767 Fifth Avenue, better known as the General Motors Building. one presumes that the renovation will capture basement, or possibly sub-basement space that is beneath the GM Building itself, which should be an elaborate feat. None of the changes are expected to be visible from the street, and the view of the signature "Cube" entrance should remain unchanged. As earlier reported, Apple will be temporarily taking over a substantial part of the former FAO Schwarz store in the GM Building along West 58th Street (pictured above) while renovations proceed, but it is expected to be there until well into 2018, meaning that it will be a while before the space's next designated tenant, Under Armour, is able able to take over and build out its own store.
It's hard to know it Nike deliberately chose the day Adidas opened its shiny new brand palace to make the announcement, but yesterday the sneaker giant announced that its long search for a follow up to its 57th Street Niketown store is over. The new Nike store will eventually open in a whopping 70,000 square feet at 650 Fifth Avenue in a space that includes not only the building's entire previous retail component, but some extra office floors that will be converted as well to make a seven-floor superstore. Essentially it will be a Nike department store on Fifth Avenue.
It has not been announced that Niketown will be closing at the end of its lease which has been extended to 2022 while the company continued to search for its successor space, but it is hard to imagine even Nike sustaining two large flagships in such close proximity. Nike execs have also been candid that the once innovative design of that store has aged, and needs to be updated in favor of the more open format of the recently unveiled Nike SoHo store (pictured above). Look for the brand to expand on the concepts in that store including areas for customers to try out athletic gear on the selling floor in basketball and soccer cages, a concept also appearing at Adidas' new flagship. In any event, there may be little overlap between the unveiling of Nike's new store and the old Niketown. It will take some time to gut and rebuild the retail space at 650 Fifth which for the past couple of decades has been the home to several brands formerly owned by Liz Claiborne including the namesake labels, Mexx and, most recently, Juicy Couture. It has been one of Fifth Avenue's biggest white elephants, having stood empty for the past couple of years except for housing a few brief pop-up stores. It is likely that Nike will institute a major redesign of the late 1970s-era facade on the lower levels to create a more imposing brand signature. That could take a while, so while Nike's new store is definitely something to look forward to, it will probably be a something of a wait to see it come to fruition.
Forget about politics. They are too nauseating to follow right now anyway. Lets talk about something really important: sneakers.
There has been a bit of retail activity regarding the perennial rivalry between Adidas and Nike. A couple of months ago, Adidas debuted its newly updated Adidas Originals store on Spring Street in SoHo featuring its burgeoning fashion line including heritage models and collaboration collections. Then, a couple of weeks ago, Nike opened its follow up to the Niketown retail concept when the new Nike SoHo store at Broadway and Spring Street finally opened after a weeklong halt and neighborhood and city government protests. Not to be outdone, Adidas is opening its largest New York store ever today on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 46th street (pictured above) . At over 45,000 square feet, the four level superstore featuring every single product category the brand offers in a high-school stadium-inspired store —if, that is, your high school stadium consisted of concrete and chain link fencing.
The industrial look, however makes an excellent backdrop for the brand's sprawling product lines. At the press preview on Tuesday night, most of the action migrated to the top floor which was devoted to an even larger presentation of the Originals division featuring, at the center, the city's first miadidas Studio (above) allowing customers to create their own versions of Originals styles. Other exclusives include the print shop on the men's athletic level in the basement, treadmills and turf cages for customers to test out products right in the store, along with refreshment kiosks, concierge services and same-day hotel delivery. The gleaming new store is poised to make the most of New York's teeming hordes of tourists who should be devouring new product as you read this, but it is also a chance for Adidas to even the scales a bit with its main rival. In midtown, where Niketown made an innovative statement in the mid '90s, Adidas is now challenging with a huge flagship of its own, and a newer one as even Nike execs have recently admitted that the high-school gymnasium concept at the 57th street store has gotten tired, and the atrium centered store layout is difficult to navigate. Look for a new Niketown announcement soon, however as the store known to be looking for a new location. In other parts of the city, however, Nike still has an edge with Nike Running shops in Flatiron and on the Upper East Side, but in SoHo, the brands are in a head to head battle. Adidas' Houston and Broadway flagship (currently undergoing a revamp) and Originals stores are now being challenged by the correspondingly edgy NikeLab store on Mercer Street and the New Nike SoHo flagship, now giving both companies a strong foothold to fight for those precious sneaker loving customers. Must we speak of these two brands as if they are in an endless pitched battle for market dominance? Well, probably not. After all some of us mix Adidas and Nike in our sneaker wardrobes, even with the occasional dash of Puma. The upshot is we now have a suddenly dramatic increase in the offerings from both of these sneaker giants, so go get yourselves some new sneakers.
Real estate in New York City is a pretty ruthless business. There are fights between developers and cummunity boards and local politicians all the time, but it is unusual for the opening of a 55,000 square foot retail flagship to have its grand opening legally halted just hours before the doors were to be unlocked. That, however is what has happened to the new Nike store that was to open last Friday on the corner of Broadway and Spring Street in SoHo.
In a feud pitting Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Community Board 2 and various other local officials against the Department of Buildings, the long awaited Nike store sits fully stocked and presumably staffed with its opening indefinitely postponed. The complaint concerns building regulations about the size of the store allowed in the space and the permits issued to redevelop 529 Broadway, the building that contains it. The protesters want Nike's certificate of occupancy recinded because, the company and the developer allegedly did not apply for the special permit required for stores over the 10,000 square foot limit imposed by the area's zoning rules. In addition, it is alleged that the DOB issued an alteration permit to build the building rather than demolition one. All of these discrepancies require greater public and oversight. Brewer and her cohorts allege that they were denied their rightful input by the DOB's arbitrary permit granting policies which allegedly favor developers over community input. Further arguments include details about party walls and how much of the original building on the site was retained that fall into the category of real estate arcana. The upshot is that Brewer and company have chosen the Nike Store to make their stand against the DOB. Now eager sneakerheads who were erroneously lined up outside the store on Friday morning will be waiting indefinitely until an agreement between all parties can be reached to grant Nike the temporary certificate of occupancy it needs to open its doors.
Brewer and company probably feel that a huge multibillion dollar corporation and presumably greedy developers are easy and suitably high-profile targets for their cause, but perhaps they shouldn't have waited until hours before the store was to open to throw a wrench into everyone's gears. The building has been under construction for years. Nike's plans for the store were also not a secret. Did they really need to wait until the last minute to protest improprieties? Now, there are not only eager customers waiting to shop at a major new store from one of America's most popular brands, but also a whole staff of workers for the multilevel store who expected that their jobs would start last Friday. It is not known how long Nike will be willing to pay managers, sales and stock staff for a store that is not being allowed to open and isn't selling anything. The company has already had to cancel at least one of the new product launches that bring customers streaming to their stores. Hopefully, the parties will be able to resolve their dispute in a timely manner. It seems unlikely Nike will actually have to pack up its big new store and find it another home, but now wonders if the city is really doing itself any favors by forcing it to sit idle right at the point it was ready to open.
Remember a couple of years ago when we passed along the news that an upstart Qatari luxury label called Qela was opening a glittery flagship store on the corner of Madison Avenue and 61st street (rendering pictured above) in the long-gestating, renovated retail section of the former Carlton House at 680 Madison Avenue?
Not to be cynical, but that's the sort of ambitious retail debut that we usually take with just a grain or two of salt: "Heretofore unknown brand from a faraway land to make splashy New York debut at phenomenally expensive location". Well, it turns out that Qela, if it even still exists, will not be making its way to Madison and 61st Street after all. About a year ago, word was out that the space was being shopped around for a sublease, and the original lease was eventually terminated before any further action was taken, leaving it available for Tom Ford to swoop in and secure it for his next Madison Avenue boutique. No, he will not be among those with dual shops on Madison, but will instead move his flagship store downtown from the 70th street corner where he first debuted his apparel collections under his own label. The 2-level 12,300 square foot store is just a bit smaller than the current flagship, but the location, just across 61st Street from Barneys, has an even more prominent profile. While is Ford's current store is keeping company with Ralph Lauren, Prada, Bottega Veneta, Céline and other illustrious names, the new location will be sharing the block with a new Brioni boutique expected to open later this year to show off that brand's radical revamp. Other menswear neighbors include Berluti, Brunelli Cucinelli and the Hermès men's store. Though Barneys across the street as radically shrunk its fabled suit department, it also remains a major menswear store (where Ford does not sell his collection) and an important traffic generator for the neighborhood. Though Ford has shown a women's collection for several seasons, he started his signature collection with men's apparel, and it would appear to be the bigger part of his fashion offerings. There's no official time frame for the new store opening, but the raw space has been ready for a new inhabitant for quite some time now, so late 2017 might be a reasonable estimate to see how Ford will update his typically lavish retail concept.
Grand Entrance: Upstart Qatari Luxury Label Qela Plans A Major Madison Avenue Debut (1/8/2014)
It's been a tough fight, but it looks like rising athletic megabrand Under Armour has won out among the prospective tenants for the former FAO Schwarz store in the GM Building (pictured above). A couple of months ago, it seemed that Nike and Apple were vying for the space as a possible new home for NikeTown or as an above-ground expansion for Apple's 24-hour flagship store underneath the plaza in front of the building. Then, Under Armour stepped in as a surprise spoiler, and now C.E.O. David Plank has announced that the company will take 53,000 square feet of the former toy store on the ground and second floors of the building officially known as 767 Fifth Avenue. It's going to be a bit of a wait before we see what Plank is calling "the most breathtaking and exciting consumer experience ever conceived at retail" as the company is not taking possession of the space until sometime in 2018. Apple is still reportedly going to be using some of the space as a temporary store while it renovates its flagship under the iconic cube entrance, but it appears that Under Armour has won the contest to stake its claim as a brand worthy of one of the most high profile retail spaces in the city.
Why, just last week we wrote about the potential battle between Apple and Nike for the former FAO Schwarz space on the 58th Street side of the GM Building (pictured above), and now the status quo has changed as another player, Under Armour, appears to have entered the fray. According to Crain's, the burgeoning performance athletic-wear company is in talks to take over at least part of the space that the legendary toy store has left vacant. Does that mean that Under Armour will now be nestled among Cartier, Apple and Bergdorf Goodman's Men's store which will be its neighbor across the street?
Reports say that the former toy palace with 13,ooo square feet on the ground floor and 40,000 on the second level is ultimately likely to be divided, and we don't know if Under Armour may be in talks for the whole thing or part of it, though if Nike is still looking to get into the space after its lease extension on 57th Street expires, it is unlikely that it would accept Under Armour as a direct adjacency.
Cartier's store on the 59th street side of the GM Building is technically temporary, and though there has been talk of the jewelry company holding on to it even after it's landmarked townhouse on Fifth Avenue is finally restored and renovated, it could also be in play within the next year or two.
The real question here, though, is whether or not Under Armour belongs in the GM Building amongst rarefied luxury flagships as well as the only electronics company that approaches luxury brand status? Nike, for all its prosaic qualities, has a coolness factor that allows it to be included amongst the avant-garde designers curated at Comme des Garçons' Dover Street Market. We could see it moved to the GM Building, but Under Armour? Does it really have that level of prestige?
We tend to think no, not that that has any bearing on whether or not a lease will be negotiated and signed. It does, however, remind us of the early 1990s, when there was a multi-level Warner Brothers Studio Store on the corner of 57th and Fifth, and a few blocks down Fifth Avenue, shoppers found an equally lavish Walt Disney store. Retailers in the neighborhood griped that the stores were degrading the area's prestige level (though there were fewer complaints when Nike took over the beleaguered space that was originally Bonwit Teller's replacement store). Eventually, those two cartoon palaces became Louis Vuitton and The Polo Store, and all was once again right with Fifth Avenue. Will the same sentiments follow Under Armour to the GM Building. The brand seems at home with a huge flagship on lower Broadway in SoHo, but will is be as comfortable a fit on one of New York's most luxurious corners?