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.
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.
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.
With 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?
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.
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.
The 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.
The rumors that Saks Fifth Avenue has designs on the Financial District took on a lot more credibility today as The Wall Street Journal reports of a comprehensive plan to bring not only a full line Saks store but also an Off Fifth outlet unit and headquarters for all of corporate parent Hudson's Bay Co. U.S. operations to the neighborhood. The Journal notes that negotiations are ongoing and could still fall apart, but the landlord in all cases would be Brookfield Office Properties Inc., and the proposed Saks Fifth Avenue store would be, as previously reported, placed at the Brookfield Place luxury retail complex at what was previously known as the World Financial Center. The Off Fifth would take over the Brooks Brothers store at One Liberty Plaza which Brookfield also controls. The office space for Saks, Saks Off Fifth, Hudson's Bay and Lord & Taylor would comprise collectively a whopping 400,000 square feet, making this a substantial real estate deal by anyone's standards.
What would this mean for downtown shopping? For the new luxury shopping district downtown that is being created where there was never one before, a full line Saks would serve as strong anchor that would benefit all the designer boutiques expected to open not only in Brookfield Place, but also nearby in the new World Trade Center towers. It would also likely be the only instance of both a Full Saks and a Saks Off Fifth being separated by only a few city blocks. Typically, retailers like to keep a healthy distance between their main stores and their more downscale outlet divisions, but the compact nature Manhattan's cityscape makes that less of an issue. At One Liberty Plaza, Off Fifth would compete directly with the newly expanded Century 21 flagship which is arguably the city's top off-price fashion retailer. The Journal reports that all parties would like to close the deal before the end of the Summer, so some sort of confirmation one way or another should be coming in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.
Saks Looks to Expand Downtown (Wall Street Journal)
Rumors Now Have Saks Heading To The Financial District
Exactly what will become of the J&R megastore which closed for redevelopment earlier this year is yet to be seen. It is promising to reopen next year, but, in the meantime, the store closed so abruptly that it did not give itself a chance to clear out of its vast inventory of computers, electronics, cameras, TVs, housewares and everything else. To alleviate that problem, the store is auctioning off its remaining inventory today and tomorrow. This is not usually the way a retailer who plans to stay in business would operate, which makes us wonder if J&R really will ever reopen when the redevelopment is completed.
Details and photos can be found HERE.
The auction will be held at the Park Row store, and is CASH or Certified Check ONLY, so come prepared. Brands available include Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, Canon, Nikon etc., so basically all of the top brands that J&R sold except for Apple, which is not listed and probably not included.
This kind of thing doesn't happen every day, so if you have any electronics needs, get down there ASAP!.
That is all.
UPDATE: Here's a caveat before you head downtown. It turns out that the auction is geared more toward buyers who plan to resell. Very few items are available in single lots, so you may not be able to buy one laptop, but you will be able to buy a lot of three or four laptops.
J&R Music Consumer Electronics Superstore Auction Tuesday, May 13 & Wednesday, May 14, at 11:30 AM 1 Park Row New York, NY 10038
Following the most recent luxury retail pattern, the window pictured above tells us that Ermenegildo Zegna is about to join the growing pack of designers who are covering all the bases of New York luxury shopping with a flagship on Fifth Avenue and a second boutique on Madison. Zegna's first sattelite store is expected to open in a couple of months at 825 Madison Avenue right between Valentino and Dennis Basso just south of 69th street. It will obviously be a smaller affair that Zegna's brand palace on Fifth, but it will also place the brand among a cluster of sophisticated men's stores in the area including Luigi Borelli, Cesare Attolini, Lanvin and the return of Simon Spurr as the designer for the upcoming Kent & Curwen boutique. But that's not all. Zegna is also listed among the designers signed for stores in the financial district's Brookfield Place shopping center. Whether it will be a full-line Zegna store, or focus on the casual Zegna Sport or more fashion forward Z Zegna collections remains to be seen, but it is expected to open in about a year as Brookfield is slated to debut its re-imagining of the former World Financial Center by then.
What this all means is that the city will soon be wash in luxury shopping whether it is in long established shopping areas (Fifth, Madison Avenues), burgeoning enclaves (SoHo) or new, ambitious real-estate development driven complexes with promising demographics but no real heritage as concentrated carriage trade locations (Brookfield Place, World Trade Center and Hudson Yards). We will see how all this shakes out in a few years. Does Manhattan need so many different high-end retail neighborhoods, or have the city's wealthy tourists and residents been under-served all along by not having enough places to shop?
News about stores heading to various locations underconstruction in the Financial Disrtrict is dominating this week's retail news. This time, it's Saks Fifth Avenue that is said to be close to signing a lease to anchor Brookfield Place's upcoming retail complex in what was formerly known as the World Financial Center on the West Side Highway (rendering at right). Though nothing has been confirmed, the rumor is featured in a front page article in WWD, which lends it more credibility than some other publications might be able to offer. The surprise here is that nobody thought there was enough room in the complex to accommodate the full-line Saks store that is expected to be announced. According to WWD, Saks would combine two separate spaces, of 20,000 and 25,000 square feet and possibly add more. If a full-sized Saks branch were to open downtown, it would make it the first major department store with two full locations in Manhattan if it can beat Barneys return to its original Chelsea home which is still a few years off. Bloomingdale's in SoHo, in contrast, is a specialty concept store that presents only select departments from its regular assortments, excluding the home collections and many apparel departments that are typically found in its branch stores.
This rumor is more convincing than some others because the chain's new owner, Hudson's Bay Company, is eager to exploit its new property, and its new president, Marigay McKee has been emphatic about building up Saks' luxury quotient. What better way way to showcase that than with a brand new, high profile store in New York City. That's not all the Saks has planned for the neighborhood, however. It is reportedly planning its first Off 5th outlet store east of Vesey Street that would compete directly with Century 21's recently expanded and upgraded flagship a few blcks across town. While the area has a long history of discount shopping, it is still unproved as the kind of luxury shopping area that is currently being built and aggressively marketed to potential tenants. Though it probably wouldn't be ready to open by next Spring when Brookfield Place's retail complex is expected to open with signed stores like Hermès, Ferragamo and Zegna, a powerhouse anchor like Saks could ultimately attract shoppers in a way that a collection of boutiques cannot, which would go a long way toward establishing the Financial District as a real (as opposed to potential) shopping destination. Expect to hear a lot more about Saks and other proposed arrivals to the area in the coming weeks.
Those "Real Estate Industry Sources" are at it again. A couple of weeks ago such sources had Neiman Marcus about to sign up for a huge flagship store at Hudson Yards that could possibly violate the terms of Bergdorf Goodman's lease (It stipulates that Neiman Marcus never open a store within New York City). Now "sources" have Tiffany & Co., Tom Ford and Giorgio Armani taking prominent storefronts at mall giant Westfield's World Trade Center shopping complex now leasing in the financial district. It would be a coup for the location which has been competing bitterly with rival Brookfield Place in the World Financial Center that is currently boasting upcoming stores from Hermès, Salvatore Ferragamo, Zegna, Michael Kors and Paul Smith —who was just announced today.
The question is just how well a true luxury shopping district can be created out of whole cloth where there previously was none? When the original World Financial Center opened about 25 years ago, it was meant to bring big spenders downtown with a satellite Barneys men's store as the main draw, but it fizzled even before the devastation of 9/11. While a smaller enclave of luxury retail has developed near the Stock Exchange anchored by Tiffany and Hermés and focused around jewelry, watches and men's apparel, it remains to be seen if the neighborhood can really support more than that. According to The Real Deal, Tom Ford would take a street-level corner store in 4 World Trade Center (pictured above) while Armani and Tiffany would open in neighboring 3 World Trade Center, all with entrances on Church Street. They would be the first top-level luxury players to join the WTC retail space which would give then high visibility from the throngs of tourists visiting the site. Would that translate into sales, especially for a stratospherically priced label like Tom Ford? Perhaps Armani is considering a less expensive Emporio or even A|X unit for the space. It is all hard to gauge, especially when the original WTC shopping mall was more of a chain-store shopping center with stores like Gap, Borders and Express. Currently, the most biggest retailer in the immediate area is still discounter Century 21, which, though recently expanded and upgraded, is still not on the level of an international luxury brand. A small-scale Brooks Brothers is nearby as well. Nobody from Armani, Tom Ford or Tiffany had any comments for The Real Deal, so, for the moment we are left wondering whether these luxury brands see real opportunity at the World Trade Center or are just kicking tires.
Tom Ford, Tiffany, Armani to take WTC street retail: sources (The Real Deal)