FAO Schwarz Headed To The Brill Building Together With Toys "R" Us

BrillBuildingNYCThe 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)


FAO Schwarz Will Not Relocate To Times Square —Remains Storeless

1633BwayIt 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.

FAO Schwarz Deal Goes Bust at 1633 Bway (NYObserver)
Reportedly: FAO Schwarz ThisClose To Signing A Times Square Lease


FAO Schwarz ThisClose To Signing A Times Square Lease

1633-broadway-renderingThough FAO Schwarz has only a couple of weeks left before it leaves its longtime home in the GM Building, it looks likely that it will be back in Manhattan by 2016's Holiday season in a retail space that is remarkably similar to its soon to be former neighbor the Apple Store. The Commercial Observer reports that, as had been rumored earlier,  the legendary toy store is about to wrap up negotiations to move into an underground space currently being reconfigured at the Paramount Building at 1633 Broadway between 50th and 51st Streets, Originally a sunken plaza not unlike the one that predated the Apple Store in front of the GM building, the new space will have a street level entryway similar to the Fifth Avenue Apple Store's "Cube" (rendering above) which will lead to 40,000 square feet on two underground levels with 14-foot ceilings, allowing for some of the dramatic displays that made FAO Schwarz famous. The Observer reports that the 15-year lease will cost about $4 million per year, a substantial savings on the reported $15.6 million it currently pays on Fifth Avenue, not to mention the increase it would pay had it chosen to remain where it is.
Executives at Toys 'R' Us, FAO Schwarz's parent company, have declined to confirm the new location for the store, but one would be hard pressed to find a better new location for the tourist magnet.

FAO Schwarz Wrapping Up Negotiations for Xmas 2016 Opening in Times Square (Commercial Observer)
Fifth Avenue Farewell: FAO Schwarz Officially Closing In July


Gap & Old Navy Will Take Over
Toys 'R' Us In Times Square


The question of whether any one store would be big enough to take over the Toys 'R' Us flagship in Times Square has been answered with a "No," as Gap Inc. made a deal last week to take over only half of the space for two flagship sized stores. The Observer reports that both the Gap and Old Navy chains will build flagships inside the space after Toys 'R' Us vacates it next year, and the arrangement will include building a third floor atop the structure.
Gap will take 6,000 square feet on the ground level with 25,000 below for a mostly underground store. Old Navy, the division of Gap Inc. which is really driving profits at the moment, will have the more visible part of the complex with the other 6,000 square feet on the main floor as well as the entire 17,500 square feet on the second floor plus another 17,000 square feet on the third floor yet to be built. This marks Old Navy's Times Square debut. It has a store on the busy 34th Street corridor, but just closed its high-profile SoHo store which is being turned into a Zara flagship. Presumably, this means that Gap will eventually close its large Times Square store at 42nd Street and Broadway, but considering how long it will take to build another floor on top of its future home, the move will probably still be at least a year off or more. More details likely to come, so stay tuned.

Gap and Old Navy Find Side-by-Side Homes in Times Square (Commercial Observer)


Toys R Us To Abandon Its Immense Times Square Flagship

ToysRUsWhat does it mean when big box megastores can no longer afford the rent?
Yesterday, The Observer reported that Toys R Us would not be renewing the lease for its huge, 110,000 square foot, three level Times Square flagship which begs the question: Where's that ferris wheel going to go?
Probably a block or so away. Rumors have the retailer moving to a smaller, but still sizable space at the base of the Marriott Marquis hotel, though a spokesperson for the company refused to confirm any future locations.
Don't look for another lavish showplace to replace the tourist toy palace though. The combined rent for the space currently rates at a whopping $2,500 per square foot for the ground floor portion of the space, $350 on the upper level and $150 on the lower level, and it is unlikely that another retailer which would even be eligible for such a space would operate there profitably. Look for the space to be split up into smaller parcels, and that means that after Toys R Us exits in 2016, there will be an extremely long renovation and gutting process, so don't expect anyone else to be open in that space at 44th and Broadway for quite some time. As for Toy R Us, if they don't find another space to relocate to, that would leave Manhattan with no large toy retailers at all, as the Toys R US-owned FAO Schwarz is also expected to leave its pricey GM Building home on Fifth Avenue, possibly for a mega-mall in New Jersey. While there is a smattering of smaller, independent toy stores scattered through the borough, as well as a much smaller Toys r Us "Express" shop in the Manhattan Mall, anyone with their own kids —or just kids in their lives who periodically need presents— knows that a large toy discounter with the wide selection of Toys R Us is an indispensable resource. While the store is certainly a major tourist draw, it is also an important place for locals to shop, mainly because it is the only store of its kind in Manhattan. Competitors have been clobbered by both Amazon and Walmart, leaving the veteran chain in the position of the last one standing. The question is where? As retail rents on desirable shopping streets continue to rise to unprecedented labels, one has to wonder when the deep pocketed retailers who have fostered these rent increases draw the line and say no. Toys R Us seems to have hits its limit for such an expense. Who will be the next big chain to tell landlords that rents have gotten out of hand?

Toys R Us Leaving Flagship Times Square Location (NY Observer/Commercial Observer)


Havaianas Finds Its Permanent Home In Times Square

Though Brazilian shower shoe phenomenon Havaianas has hosted pop-up shops in the trendy Meatpacking District for the past few summers (the current one runs through the end of this month), when it came time to finally open a full-time flagship, the brand decided to go for a totally populist location.
This week, the first permanent Havaianas store in New York opens at 1588 Broadway at 48th Street in Times Square. The compact 350 square foot store will naturally feature endless permutations of the brand's famous flip flops in a new format centered around bright, colorful touches and a central display table meant to evoke a Brazilian marketplace. An "Embellish Your Own Havaianas" section will allow customers to individualize their sandals with pins and charms. Given the heavy tourist traffic swirling around it at all times, there's almost no possible way for this store not to be a hit. 

Havaianas Hits New York (WWD)


H&M Will Go Gaga In Times Square At 12:01 AM On Thursday Morning

HMTSThe familiar red script H&M logo will officially light up at 4 Times Square at the earliest possible moment on Thursday with the help of none other than Lady Gaga as the Swedish chain plans big festivities for it's largest U.S. store (for the moment, anyway). To add the the excitement, this Thursday is also the day that H&M's highly anticipated Isabel Marant collaboration line bows to the public, and even with time zones being what they are, the Times Square store will be the first store on the planet to have the collection available. The 42,000 square foot store will be open for 24 hours on that first day of business, with special deals being announced hourly by digital countdown. As for anxious fans ready to stay up late to take part in the excitement, here's how the early birds will score: The first 1,000 customers in line will receive an Access to Fashion Pass which will be worth anywhere from $10 to $1,000, and beyond that, 20 lucky little monsters will get a "golden ticket" for a meet and greet with her Ladyship herself. That is how we know that Gaga fans will be taking over the line to be the first ones inside, and are probably starting to camp out right now. Also as part of the celebration, the Times Square store along with about 175 others in the chain will be selling the singer's new album Artpop for $9.95.

As for the store itself, it will be H&M's 12th in Manhattan, with another flagship under construction right now at 48th and Fifth and the biggest one ever set to take over Herald Center at 34th and Broadway sometime next year. The borough now has the highest concentration of H&M stores in America, but for now, anyway, attention is to be focused on Times Square with over 7,000 square feet of LED screens and a 53-foot wall of glitter. Sounds sparkly. Get some sleep. You will be needing it.

H&M 4 Times Square opens November 14 at 12:01 AM, Times Square


Shop Joe Fresh At JCPenney's Times Square Orange Grove Next Week

JoefreshPenneysOrangeDespite the continual turmoil backstage at JCPenney, the retailer seems to be going full speed ahead with at least a few of the initiatives that came along with the chain's radical makeover last year including the addition of popularly priced Canadian brand Joe Fresh. Next Tuesday and Wednesday, August 21st and 22nd, Penney's and Fresh will try to jump-start a somewhat lackluster back-to-school shopping season with a temporary orange grove in the Times Square pedestrian plaza between 46th and 47th streets that promises "treats and activities for the entire family" along with latest collection for kids. Orange is, of course, Joe Fresh's unmistakable signature color, so you shouldn't miss the pop-up shop even in the usual crushing crowds of Times Square. Just in case you think it's all for promotion, proceeds from the event will benefit, which connect donors to specific teachers so they can use and purchase much needed resources for underserved classroom in the community.

Joe Fresh x JCPenney Orange Grove on August 21st - 22nd between 46th & 47th Streets, Times Square


Recovery Edition

15CRITICAL1_SPAN-articleLargeLast week, The Shophound just didn't have a chance to follow up on Critical Shopper Jon Caramanica's visit to Times Square's big new Superdry flagship. Like so many others in the city, we were busy trying to make up for lost work time once most of Manhattan had returned to something resembling normalcy. Looking back, his account seemed fairly joyless, like he really would rather have been somewhere else after the disaster the city had endured. We would certainly rather be almost anywhere other than a Superdry in Times Square at any given moment, let alone during the aftermath of a natural disaster.
So let's move on.

In this week's Thursday Styles, Ruth La Ferla makes a rare return appearance in the Critical Shopper seat. She has taken on shoe designer Brian Atwood's new Madison Avenue boutique, and scores a coup of sorts by bringing along not just any shopping , but Debbie Bancroft, a real live Upper East Side socialite. This lady can be credibly seen as representing the sort of person who will seriously shop at Atwood's store, and shop she does,

Ms. Bancroft beelined to a pair of pumps that would have been subdued had they not been snakeskin patterned, in disco-ball silver. She snapped them up while I checked out, and bought, an identical pair in inky blue.

And what more do you really need to know? Inside the lavish and fancifully turned out store, ladies of means will snap up flamboyantly designed footwear at staggering prices. It seems that at least one part of New York City has bounced back to normal just fine.

Critical Shopper: Just Try Putting Yourself in His Shoes By Ruth La Ferla (NYTimes)
Brian Atwood
655 Madison Avenue at between 60th & 61st Streets, Upper East Side

Critical Shopper: At Superdry in Times Square, Taking Respite, Ambivalently, From Nature by Jon Caramanica (NYTimes)
Superdry 729 Seventh Avenue at 49th Street, Times Square


EXPRESS Switches Times Square Sites

ExpressWSJThose if us who weren't born yesterday will remember when a trendy offshoot of The Limited eventually called EXPRESS became one of the hottest chain stores of the 1980s and 90s. By the turn of this century, however, Express, along with the namesake chain of its parent company began to falter as stores like Zara and H&M offered stiff competition and Limited Brands turned its focus to the still vital Victoria's Secret,  Bath & Body Works and the umpteenth attempt to turn the sad shell of a store that continues to call itself Henri Bendel into some kind of profitable chain. The two chains were sold off in 2007, and a slow but deliberate revamp has been under way since then. Express has announced plans to raise its profile with the kind of major flagships that its competitors have increase their recognition among customers. For a few months now, a deal to take over the former ESPN Zone restaurant space at 3 Times Square has been expected to be announced for a new Express flagship. It's a prestige space with 42nd Street exposure, but in a surprise move the chain has revealed that it will be taking over a different restaurant space, a somewhat less glamorous T.G.I.Fridays in 1552 Broadway at 46th Street (pictured above right). Why the switch? Observers suggest that because rents in the Times Square neighborhood are so high, often clearing $1,800 per square foot, subtle differences in location can make a crucial difference in the success or failure of a store. 46th street is closer to what is known as the "bow tie" where Broadway and Seventh Avenue cross. Putting it simply, "Everybody comes to Times Square to see what's going on in the bow tie. Not everybody walks all the way down to 42nd street," Cushman & Wakefield retail broker C. Bradley Mendelson tells The Wall Street Journal. At a rent that could top $20 million a year, even a slight location miscalculation could make a difference in the fortunes of the entire chain, and Express C.E.O. Michael Weiss is expecting the new flagship strategy to relaunch the brand to the teeming throngs of tourists, slack-jawed and otherwise, who crowd through Times Square on a daily basis. Look for a splashy Express opening sometime soon.

Express to Times Square (Wall Street Journal)