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?
The game of Musical Stores on Madison Avenue will continue as famed Swiss shoe and accessory brand Bally will move from its current home in the GM Building to Georg Jensen's shop at 687 Madison. Georg Jensen, by the same token will relocate further uptown to 698 Madison.
what may seem like lateral move for both companies may in fact be something of marginal improvement for Bally, which has endured continuing efforts to reposition and improve its fashion image in its GM building location through a series of creative directors. The move will have it taking the entire southeast corner of 62nd and Madison including not only the Jensen store but also the adjacent former Church's shop which has been closed for several months now creating a total of about 3,000 square feet. It is a somewhat more favorable location just a block up from Barneys with a much more intimate scale than the cavernous GM Building space.
Georg Jensen's new home will have be the former Kentshire shop where, between the ground floor and the basement, it will have 1,600 square feet to display the famous Danish jewelry and silver designs.
No word yet on who will takeover the current Bally store which is on the back end of a wing that features a temporary (or possibly not so temporary if rumors are to be believed) Cartier store, and if there is a new Church's store in the works, something New York City hasn't been long without in decades, then it is still under wraps.
Fans of shiny, plastic shoes will be pleased to hear that Melissa Shoes is reportedly moving its flagship store from a modest storefront on Greene Street to Tommy Hilfiger's former store at 500 Broadway (pictured above) right next door to Bloomingdale's. The Brazilian brand known for its leather-free footwear and collaborations with designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood and Jason Wu, to name a few, will enjoy a big step up both in profile and square feet nearly doubling the store's selling space and increasing visibility immeasurably. As for the store that the brand is leaving at 102 Greene Street (pictured below), it is rumored to be Fendi's next home at SoHo, suggesting that the odd, windowless space right next door that Fendi recently moved into is in fact just a temporary space for the main luxury brand as it waits to move into a more appropriately proportioned store.
Call it just one of the effects of corporately owned fashion. Several weeks ago, we noticed that Fendi had vacated its high-profile spot at the corner of Greene and Spring Streets for a strangely innocuous location down the block with very little street visibility, and now we can see that the space at 122 Greene has been given over to the ever sprawling Louis Vuitton boutique that had been its next-door neighbor (pictured above). It's not Vuitton's first expansion of its SoHo store, and now it controls a substantial portion of the block between Spring and Prince Streets. It's not terribly surprising to see Vuitton move into Fendi's space, as they are sibling brands under the vast LVMH luxury umbrella. Vuitton, along with Dior which also has a boutique on the same block, is one of the group's crown jewels, a cash cow that has few peers in the fashion world. It would appear, at least in their case, that one of the hazards of being a part of such a luxury group is that when Big LV needs more room lesser brands, even ones as celebrated as Fendi, will get out of the way and relinquish their highly desirable corner stores.
For its part, Fendi's new store at no. 104 (pictured below) may be a bit larger than its previous space, but even the brand's outsized chrome robot bear mascot at the doorway may not be enough to alert passers by that the new boutique is now open. Hushed, well-appointed and well stocked with the brand's Bag Bugs festooned accessories though it may be, the new store is strangely tunnel-like and windowless which is particularly unfortunate in a neighborhood so prized in part for its airy loft-like stores. Hopefully, SoHo's tourists and other deep pocketed shoppers will find Fendi's new downtown home, but we have to wonder if the brand's retail executives are really that pleased with the relocation.
It was only about eight years ago that Ermenegildo Zegna debuted a lavish Fifth Avenue flagship store of the sort that one would expect it would remain in for quite a while, but the NY Post is reporting that the Italian menswear megabrand is already heading to The Crown Building at 57th Street and Fifth Avenue to open a new 9,000 square feet for a new brand palace at one of the most expensive intersections in the world. If, as one might presume, the company had a 10-year lease at 663 Fifth Avenue, its current home, then it should be ready to move uptown at about the time its current lease runs out. While the retail space is being reconfigured, much of the office space upstairs will be converted into a combination of luxury hotel and condominiums.
Zegna's space is reported to include 1,500 square feet the ground floor and 7,500 square feet on the second floors of the building with an entrance on West 57th Street. Bulgari, the longtime corner tenant, has recently renegotiated its lease for a reduced 3,000 square footprint. It looks like Zegna will take over part of Bulgari's former space combined with Smythson's former store next door at the street level. What the new store will look like will be for us to anticipate, but given the splashy address and its current glamorous digs, it seems fair to expect a major statement.
WEST VILLAGE INS & OUTS:
Paul Smith Is In
Mulberry, Black Fleece & Marc Jacobs Men's Are Out On Bleecker
Mulberry, Black Fleece & Marc Jacobs Men's Are Out On Bleecker
Remember when Bleecker Street was such a hot retail address that the older stores were being pushed out and replaced with new designer boutiques at a breakneck pace?
Well, that's over.
As luxury labels retrench in the face of economic uncertainty, Bleecker street is suddenly looking less like a hotspot and more like a tony neighborhood in a holding pattern, perhaps a couple of years behind the neighboring Meatpacking District where once precious retail space is now available in greater abundance. Since the Holiday season, A few more Bleecker Street storefronts have gone empty. Mulberry has quietly exited its outpost at 387 Bleecker leaving it with larger stores on both Madison Avenue and Spring Street in SoHo. Perhaps a tiny store that benefited from Bleecker Street's hotspot-of-the-moment glamor is no longer such an imperative when there are other bigger stores in more heavily trafficked neighborhoods with more potential for sales volume and brand visibility.
Mulberry is not the only company reconsidering its retail strategies. Marc Jacobs is in still the midst of re-inventing his own label. Since the Marc by Marc Jacobs label that made up most of his Bleecker Street stores' offerings has been discontinued, his West Village colony of shops is in a transition of its own. It was always a kind of free-flowing arrangement with stores regularly switching places. With Want Les Essentials de la Vie having already having taken over one of the designer's former shops, the latest branch to bite to the dust is the teeny tiny men's store whose windows are now blacked out. That leaves Jacobs with only his original shop at 403/405 Bleecker, Bookmarc across the street at #400 and the beauty store at #385, which is still a strong showing, but we are still wondering how things will settle retail wise for Marc. His men's store has always been problematic. Having bounced around from one of Jacobs' West Village locations to another, it always seemed to wind up in the same stall-like space that could only hold a few customers at a time and seemed like a poor setting for one of America's premier designers to present his collections. Part of this probably results from the fact that Jacobs has been candid over the years about his personal disinterest in menswear as a designer. He rarely if ever wears his own brand, preferring more attention getting outfits from labels like Comme des Garçons and most recently being very vocal about buying copious amounts of Alessandro Michele's first Gucci collection. His lack of interest is reflected at retail where the label has little traction in menswear, and industry watchers are wondering if the men's division has many more seasons left at all without stronger direction. Closing its store couldn't be seen as a sign of faith in the division.
While once it was incredibly difficult for a retailer to even acquire a space on Bleecker Street in its most desirable stretch between Christoper Street and Hudson Street, now a prospective retailer has something of a selection. Since Brooks Brothers has sadly discontinued its Thom Browne designed Black Fleece collection, its boutique at 351 Bleecker at the corner of West 10th Street has also been shuttered leaving another prime spot open, and more space at 345 Bleecker will be available soon as Comptoir des Cotonniers has posted a closing notice in the window of its unit there. In addition, the empty where the neighborhood favorite Manatus Restaurant once served up classic diner fare is still empty after it was forced out nearly two years ago in hopes of attracting a higher paying tenant who has yet to show up.
It's not all bad news, however. As promised, Paul Smith has opened up a temporary store at 357 Bleecker Street (pictured above) to replace his original Flatiron store. As reported, it's smaller than the shuttered lower Fifth Avenue boutique, but Smith promises a bigger permanent unit on the way. So far the store is only carrying early Spring deliveries heavy on his lower priced label, PS. Perhaps even after a more impressive space presents itself, Smith, who has also streamlined his profusion of labels, should consider hanging on to the Bleecker Street store as a PS-only shop. It would fit in perfectly with the street's more recent focus on slightly more accessible designer labels, and it would fill up a shop that might otherwise not find a tenant a swiftly as it might have a few years ago.
See a gallery of closing notices after the jump.
The Flatiron District will be dealt a blow next week when the Paul Smith boutique at 108 Fifth Avenue (pictured above) permanently closes its doors and moves to a temporary space on Bleecker Street in the West Village. While the designer has a flagship store in SoHo, a Williamsburg location and a new outpost at Brookfield Place in the Financial District, the Fifth Avenue store was Smith's first in New York opening in 1987. It was one of the first designer stores in the neighborhood and, along with Emporio Armani on the other side of 16th Street (now a closed Joe Fresh), established Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 14th Streets as a bona fide shopping destination that seemed to be geared more toward downtown dwelling New Yorkers than tourists or bridge-and-tunnel shoppers. Even though the neighborhood eventually became more of a destination for chain stores that made it something of a mall without the mall (Gap, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, H&M, Victoria's Secret etc.), The Paul Smith boutique maintained its place as the high-end lynchpin for the neighborhood for nearly 30 years, even expanding downstairs.
Smith won't miss a beat, however. As clearly stipulated in the window (pictured below) the Bleecker Street store will open on Monday It is a more compact 1,000 square feet to Fifth Avenue's 1,800, but it is technically a temporary location to serve until a more suitable permanent spot is found. Where it will ultimately land remains to be seen, but the hands-on designer has been known to be extremely picky about where he places his boutiques, so wherever it is, expect it to be perfectly chosen all in good time.
As soon as Sony sold its Midtown tower a couple of years ago, it seemed inevitable that a new owner would probably be waiting for the media and electronics giant to relinquish its hold on the building's valuable Madison Avenue retail space, and that is what is about to happen. The SonyStyle store is now set to vacate its current home for retail space in its parent company's new home at 11 Madison Avenue right by Madison Square Park. While some still know 550 Madison Avenue by its original name, the AT&T Building, the structure shook the skyline with the striking, outsized postmodern pediment at its top and became the Sony Tower in the Early 90s. SonyStyle has been a showcase for the brand's various products ever since, and while there was once a chain of such stores throughout the U.S., the company's retail devotion was reduced earlier last year to the one store in New York and another in Los Angeles as the consumer electronics market has rapidly evolved over the past two decades. How the store's downtown replacement will look remains to be seen, but it will be hard to match the soaring ceilings inside the store and in the dramatic passageway that cut through the building between 55th and 56th Streets. Once an open-air space that was majestic but cold, Sony took the step of reconfiguring the public space and enclosing it making it more useful for both retailers and passersby. Look for the retail complex, divided by the building's lobby and entryway, to be marketed as two separate store spaces, but not after some extensive renovation. Presumably, the free-to-the-public Sony Wonder Technology Lab (pictured) described as "state-of-the-art technology and entertainment museum" will also be vacating, but it is not known if it will be replicated in the new store. For its part, Sony is relocating its store to a neighborhood on the other side of Madison Square Park from the trendy NoMad area to a neighborhood better known for luxury home furnishing showrooms and Shake Shack, which makes us think that the replacement store will be more of an open showroom for Sony products than a store looking to capture midtown tourist business.
The saga of where Toys "R" Us and FAO Schwarz will ultimately plant their flagship stores appears to have been concluded as The Commercial Observer reports that both stores —which are jointly owned— will move into the historic, about-to-change-hands Brill Building (pictured at right) on the corner of Broadway and 49th Street for a combined store. The companies are reportedly in negotiations with the landmark building's future owners for all or part of the 50,000 square feet of retail space that will be available when renovations are finished.
New Yorkers with fond memories of FAO Schwarz's Fifth Avenue toy palace may be disappointed to learn that its new home would be combined with the more pedestrian Toys "R" Us chain, robbing it of its exclusive veneer, and that is reportedly what scuttled the deal for a new store a block up the street at 1633 Broadway. That building's owners were apparently happy to have FAO Schwarz planted in front of its tower, however they balked at having the more Toys "R" Us mass market brand sharing what they were marketing as a prestige space. The Brill Building, for its part, is best known as the center of the pop music industry during the mid-20th Century, housing legendary songwriters like Burt Bacharach, Hal David, Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Phil Spector, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller to name just a handful of the hitmakers who called it their professional home. It was still home to the beloved Colony Records music store until 2012 when the last vestige of the ornate Art Deco building's legendary past finally succumbed to closure.
Of course, nobody involved is confirming any news of a new combined toy store flagship yet, and the deal wouldn't be finalized until after the Brill Building's new owners close on their acquisition near the end of this year. A new store opening is still fairly far off, but this looks like the deal that may bring FAO Schwarz back in operating form in Manhattan, if not exactly in the form its nostalgic fans might be hoping for.
FAO Schwarz and Toys “R” Us Looking to Open Combo Store at Brill Building (Commercial Observer)
It seemed like such a tidy plan.
FAO Schwarz, the legendary luxury toy store finally forced out of its Fifth Avenue home as a result of skyrocketing rents would build a new flagship across town near Times Square in an Apple Store like underground space with a splashy entry pavilion on Broadway between 50th and 51st Streets to be ready, hopefully, around Holiday season of next year.
It turns out that the plan was just a little bit too tidy as reports surfaced over the weekend that the deal has fallen through just a week before it was to be finalized, leaving the beloved retailer without a brick-and-mortar retail outlet for the foreseeable future. The 40,000 square foot space will still be developed, and is reportedly on the market with a $4 million rent. Compounding the issue, FAO Schwarz's parent company, Toys 'R' Us will also be closing its flagship in Times Square next year without designating a replacement site in the city. As New York's toy shoppers wring their hands, we all wait breathlessly to find out the fate of these stores. Stay tuned.