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Registered: ‎01-19-2015

The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town

This article from today's NY Post is worth reading. I'm sure it applies to many other large cities across the country as well.

 

 

By Steve Cuozzo

 

If you want to see the future of storefront retailing, walk nine blocks along Broadway from 57th to 48th Street and count the stores.

 

The total number comes to precisely one — a tiny shop to buy drones.

 

That’s right: On a nine-block stretch of what’s arguably the world’s most famous avenue, steps south of the bustling Time Warner Center and the planned new Nordstrom department store, lies a shopping wasteland.

 

Yes, there are bank branches, restaurants, fast-food outlets, theaters, Duane Reades, a vitamin shop and a few tourist-targeted “discount” stores. But mainly there are oodles of empty spaces covered with signs touting SUPERB CORNER RETAIL OPPORTUNITY.

 

The same crisis blights the rest of Manhattan. The people invested in storefront retailing — real-estate developers, landlords and retail companies themselves — tell us not to worry. It’s a “transitional” situation that will right itself over time. Authoritative-sounding surveys by real-estate and retail companies claim that Manhattan’s overall vacancy is only just 10 percent.

 

But they are all wrong. Bricks-and-mortar retail is shrinking so swiftly and on such a wide scale, it’s going to require big changes in how we plan our new buildings and our cities — although nobody wants to admit it.

 

Even the most profitable, can-do-no-wrong global chains are feeling the heat right now. H&M found itself unexpectedly sitting on $4.3 billion in unsold merchandise, The New York Times reported last month.

 

Why? Shopping from home or on a smartphone is a lot easier than shopping in a store. The ease of buying sweaters and light bulbs online trumps the thrill of people-watching in stores where slow-moving sales clerks take 15 minutes to ring up a $25 tie on balky computers.

 

Amazon makes it easier to return goods that don’t live up to expectations than it often is to buy things in stores. Clerks have no idea what’s in stock. Fashion goods displayed on shelves are chosen by too-young buyers with their minds more on the current Instagram trend than on customers’ needs.


I now buy many of my clothes from Charles Tyrwhitt online. Many more products offered there fit me than in their stores, where shirts seem cut for skeletons.

 

And yet, it’s scary to think that one of the city’s great pleasures, window-shopping — which also ensures vibrant, crime-deterring sidewalk life — will become a thing of the past except at certain locations.

 

At this rate, we face a future where streets will be mostly dark at sidewalk level for miles on end. Third Avenue in the East 60s, Broadway north of Lincoln Center, many blocks in the supposedly thriving Meatpacking District are halfway there already.

 

Amazon and other online-buying services now account for 9.1 percent of all national retail sales — soaring from just 5.1 percent at the end of 2011, according to the US Census Bureau. Does anyone doubt that it will rise further? Yet real-estate developers are adding to the surplus by putting millions of square feet of retail space into big new Manhattan mixed-use projects from the far West Side to Delancey Street. Just about every individual new office tower, apartment building and hotel opens with “prime” retail space in search of tenants. Super-luxury condo tower 432 Park Ave. has leased less than one-fifth of its store space after three years of trying.

 

Few retailers can afford to pay more than $250 per square foot annually in rent — yet landlords persist in asking $400 a square foot and up to $2,000 a square foot in prime zones like Fifth Avenue and Times Square.

 

Mayor de Blasio wants to fine landlords who keep spaces empty until they find tenants who’ll pay astronomical rents. But there’s no fair way to judge who’s actually guilty. Would he punish the owners of the small corner building at 1330 Third Ave. at East 76th Street, who slashed the “ask” from $420,000 a year in 2016 to $360,000 in April 2017 and still can’t find a tenant?

 

New York’s vacancy crisis is due to the same factors that wiped out malls and chain stores across the United States: the rise of online shopping, private-equity takeovers that saddled retailers with too much debt, and shoppers’ changing tastes.

 

Only a few grasp the true scope of the problem. Vornado Realty Trust titan Steven Roth said we can only cure the national plague through “the closing and evaporation” of up to 30 percent of the weakest space — which would take five years.

 

Most others see no evil. So what if JC Penney, Sears, Kmart, Macy’s, Toys ‘R’ Us, The Limited, American Apparel, BCBG, Payless Shoes, J Crew, Banana Republic and Gap have closed (or plan to close soon) thousands of stores across the US, including many in New York City?

 

We’re told that although sportswear and appliance stores don’t appeal much to millennials, their places are being taken up by fancy coffee places, “fast-casual” eateries serving the same green salads, and gyms and spas. “Experiential” retail — a term that can mean almost anything — will also help plug the gaps.

 

But munching spots and health clubs can’t come close to filling spaces that sportswear, houseware and bookstores are leaving behind.

 

We can still avoid becoming a retail ghost town like many of the country’s malls. But to increase demand for our dark storefronts, the city must roll back zoning rules in some neighborhoods that require even more retail in new buildings whether there’s demand for them or not. We should discourage the inclusion of acres of retail in giant new complexes that only add to the glut.

 

Otherwise, the whole town will look like Broadway in the 50s — a corridor of salad bars and dark windows.

 

~~Be careful when you follow the masses. Sometimes the 'm' is silent.~~
Respected Contributor
Posts: 3,106
Registered: ‎09-14-2010

Re: The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town

Definitely does not sound like the NYC I remember!

 

Wow! Have not actually been there in years now. I know things change, but I can not imagine NYC any different from when we used to go there several times a year every year when we lived in upstate New York.

 

No matter where we were... just busy, period. Can not imagine going to NYC and NOT shop... it was all about the shopping and the food. Times sure do change!!

-Texas Hill Country-
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Posts: 9,139
Registered: ‎04-16-2010

Re: The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town

Excellent article.

 

What stood out:

 

1) Lack of customer service is huge

 

2) items in the stores do NOT offer enough appeal to customers who do visit plus add in #1

 

3) Considering that the vast majority of America does NOT have the income to  a) live in the city

     b) afford real estate in the city

     c) if they do live in the city, there's no money for the eateries and $$$$ stuff

 

4) Who cares if these stores go under? You and I and everyone else better because those are JOBS going down the toilet. The future will be the vast majority who do not "have" and a much smaller group that "has". You know what happens in those situations......

 

 

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Posts: 1,919
Registered: ‎08-31-2010

Re: The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town

So much depends on where you are combined with retail management.

 

The richer areas in the burbs are doing very well, and there's a waiting list for what I consider one of the ugliest and most badly-designed malls I've ever seen.  Specialty retailers in the right area will soar with the right marketing and word of mouth.  In my area, not so much.  What we get are restaurants and more restaurants.  

 

I was talking to a small service retailer that bailed on his storefront when the rent reached $3,500 a month, and at the end of the year, he got a bill for over $20,000 for his share of the mall's upkeep (new paving that wasn't needed...etc.).  

 

A favorite small home store had their lease yanked for a national chain that needed that size space.  Uh huh, the new guy only took half and created a tiny shop.  At their new location, they lost the lease again because the landlord wanted to go in a different direction.  The owner gave up a tthat point, and he said you can't open a store for less than $300,000.

 

Online sales are doing their part, but there's so much more impacting B&M than just that one issue.

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Registered: ‎03-09-2010

Re: The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town

The area mentioned in  this artlicle has never been a retail store filled area. It does say it is now populated by restaurants, banks etc. as it always has been and the area is not hurting economically. There are always empty storefronts all over the city and high rents are most probably the cause. If you want all the shopping you can handle or more, walk one or two blocks east and you will be overwhelmed by your shopping choices. Different blocks in the city are noted for different things.

 

The NY Post is a tabloid paper just a half step or so above the Star or the Enquirer and has an agenda against the Mayor so anything said should be observed through that lens.


'I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed man'.......Unknown
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Registered: ‎11-16-2014

Re: The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town


@Reiki604 wrote:

The area mentioned in  this artlicle has never been a retail store filled area. It does say it is now populated by restaurants, banks etc. as it always has been and the area is not hurting economically. There are always empty storefronts all over the city and high rents are most probably the cause. If you want all the shopping you can handle or more, walk one or two blocks east and you will be overwhelmed by your shopping choices. Different blocks in the city are noted for different things.

 

The NY Post is a tabloid paper just a half step or so above the Star or the Enquirer and has an agenda against the Mayor so anything said should be observed through that lens.


Well said and definitely anything from the NY Post is like reading The Star.

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Re: The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town

It's sad, but not surprising.  "Main Streets" all over have been under seige for decades in little town first as Walmarts and other large chains began building on cheaper land surrounding those towns.  Add the TV and Internet shopping of the last 2 decades and ---  voile, a whole new retail ex[erience.

 

Just this morning in my local paper (yep- dinosaur here who still loves print) there was an article in the local business section directly related to this topic.  For years and years on a section of Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, only retail and restaurants were welcome.  As retail changed, building owners couldn't find tenants; the article highlighted one whose building has been empty for 2 years. 

 

Finally there is a movement to allow such owners to lease space to banks and offices.  Seems that empty storefronts are even more ugly than a bank!   About time to move into the "new" century!

 

NYC's changing face is happening all over.  I know some of it began in my hometown central PA -  in the 1960's.  The necessities are there, but real shopping beyond that starts miles away.

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Registered: ‎02-07-2011

Re: The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town

[ Edited ]

I didn't read the whole article but having lived most of my life in NYC it wouldn't surprise me that retail is going downhill, empty storefronts, etc.  I would expect some developer too swoop in and put up a 100 story office building/condo or some such.  NYC is always evolving.  That part of the city and indeed the whole city is far from becoming a "ghost town."

 

 

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Posts: 1,919
Registered: ‎08-31-2010

Re: The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town


@millieshops wrote:

It's sad, but not surprising.  "Main Streets" all over have been under seige for decades in little town first as Walmarts and other large chains began building on cheaper land surrounding those towns.  Add the TV and Internet shopping of the last 2 decades and ---  voile, a whole new retail ex[erience.

 

Just this morning in my local paper (yep- dinosaur here who still loves print) there was an article in the local business section directly related to this topic.  For years and years on a section of Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, only retail and restaurants were welcome.  As retail changed, building owners couldn't find tenants; the article highlighted one whose building has been empty for 2 years. 

 

Finally there is a movement to allow such owners to lease space to banks and offices.  Seems that empty storefronts are even more ugly than a bank!   About time to move into the "new" century!

 

NYC's changing face is happening all over.  I know some of it began in my hometown central PA -  in the 1960's.  The necessities are there, but real shopping beyond that starts miles away.


Wal Mart didn't do much of anything to Main Street America, but the government (local, state and federal) sure did.  If you look at a map of all of the Wal Marts today--let alone 40 years ago--there can be vast distances between the stores, and as any rural dweller will tell you, they'll only drive so far, and that mail order has existed on a big scale since the early days of Sears.

 

Locally, city and county taxes have been pushing farmers and ranchers out of business for well over 100 years.  The there are state taxes and regs, and they've been soaring, too.  Next come the Feds, and they've been brutal to deal with since the Civil War.  No joke, the war on agriculture goes way back.  Talk to any farmer or rancher, especially ones that have family ties for generations, and you'll find out just how awful things have been.  It's especially fun when states and Feds have conflicting rules.  

 

Wal Mart is just easy to blame, but you talk to the people who are literally on the ground, and you learn a lot.

 

Read it! New England Journal of Medicine—May 21, 2020
Universal Masking in Hospitals in the Covid-19 Era

“We know that wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers little, if any, protection from infection.
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Re: The World's Hottest Shopping City is Becoming a Ghost Town


@Reiki604 wrote:

The area mentioned in  this artlicle has never been a retail store filled area. It does say it is now populated by restaurants, banks etc. as it always has been and the area is not hurting economically. There are always empty storefronts all over the city and high rents are most probably the cause. If you want all the shopping you can handle or more, walk one or two blocks east and you will be overwhelmed by your shopping choices. Different blocks in the city are noted for different things.

 

The NY Post is a tabloid paper just a half step or so above the Star or the Enquirer and has an agenda against the Mayor so anything said should be observed through that lens.


@Reiki604

 

Yes, I worked in that area back in the 80's and it was same back then.

 

The Post is a rag, always was.

 

Some funny cover headlines, though.