A High-End Retail Opportunity Grows in Brooklyn

Jun 02, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Following Barneys’ announcement in March that it plans to open
its first store in Brooklyn’s hot Cobble Hill neighborhood, other national
high-end retailers — including
Swarovski Crystal, Anthropologie and The North Face — are said to be
looking to open locations in that New York City borough.

Barneys plans to open
one of its smaller concept Barneys’ Co-Op stores. The format runs around 8,000
square feet and targets a younger, hipper crowd than Barneys New York.
Prices are said to be somewhat more reasonable than Barneys New York but far
from cheap. Dresses can still cost north of $500 and jeans over $300.

An article in The New York
said that while retailers with locations
in Manhattan, such as American Apparel, Urban Outfitters and Trader Joe’s, 
have opened outposts in the borough, Barney’s Co-Op is aimed squarely at upscale
shoppers and particularly paving the way for other premium stores.

"Brooklyn has the demographics to support this kind of retail, but until
now, no national store was willing to take the chance," Joanne Podell,
the executive director of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield, told
the Times.

The Times noted that in Cobble Hill, apartment prices regularly
top $1 million and the average household income is more than $109,000, according
to the Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey. In comparison,
the average household incomes on the Upper West Side and SoHo — where
two other Barneys Co-ops are located – are $177,000 and $181,000.

More than 100,000 people live within
a mile of the new Barneys Co-Op, and numerous subway lines converge nearby providing
accesses to thousands of office workers from downtown Brooklyn.

rents in Cobble Hill are roughly 20 to 25 percent of what is available in prime
Manhattan spots like SoHo.

"We are opening the Brooklyn store for the same reason we opened our
location on the Upper West Side: it’s where our customers are living,
and they appreciate us coming to their neighborhoods," said Ms. Brown.

a story that appeared when the store’s opening was first announced, the New
York Daily News
found one 57-year old musician who called the Co-Op’s
arrival "more
of the Manhattanization" of downtown Brooklyn.

But April Maddox, a 37 year-old
piano teacher, said, "I don’t think you’ll
find a single woman around here to complain about Barneys coming to town. Pretty
soon, I’ll be able to get all my shopping done in Brooklyn. A few more nice
restaurants and I might swear off the city altogether."

While real estate
brokers indicate increased interest in Cobble Hill as a high-end destination,
one hurdle is a lack of spaces big enough for national retailers. Williamsburg,
which has more retail options, is said to be less appealing because of its
lack of density and access to mass transportation.

Discussion Questions: Will we soon see a broadening of the luxury store
market in other cities, similar to what is happening in Brooklyn? What factors
best determine whether a locale is suitable for targeting wealthy shoppers?

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6 Comments on "A High-End Retail Opportunity Grows in Brooklyn"

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Roger Saunders
10 years 11 months ago

Barney’s holds a strong, New York-centric view of the greater metropolitan area. If they have done the right real estate sourcing (and, the neighborhood is right) on pricing and companion retailers, this store should do nicely.

That, however, doesn’t translate to $300 jeans doing well in every better end community around the country. Shopping and travel patterns vary by market, and ‘Urban Villages’, with all their fabulous charm, do not work everywhere.

The real estate teams will have to conduct sound studies of consumer patterns for each of the local markets that they may be evaluating. The days of capturing a ‘sharp leasehold’, and opening the doors on a model that has worked elsewhere, is “on hold.”

Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 11 months ago

I see this as a win/win for Barneys, the landlords, the neighborhood and other smaller high-end retailers. Look at real estate prices compared to New York City. That alone will cause retailers to follow suit now that a bigger box has started to lead the way. It will be interesting to follow this in a year or more to see how successful the project became.

Janet Dorenkott
Janet Dorenkott
10 years 11 months ago

If the market they are selecting can support other high-end stores, then they can probably be successful. But given today’s economy and high unemployment, I’d be very cautious. You can chose the high-end suburb of any city and think you’re safe, but all it takes is one major business to move out, announce layoffs or go out of business and things can change quickly in a smaller metropolitan area.

Jonathan Marek
10 years 11 months ago

Brooklyn seems pretty unique to me in today’s economic environment. Certainly here in the Bay Area the prospects of high-end stores in up-and-coming “spill-over” areas (e.g., fashionable parts of Oakland) looks bleak. Maybe there are areas around DC, or Dallas, or Minot, ND (just kidding) where the economy is holding up for this sort of stuff. In the meantime, growing sames store sales in existing locations is the better bet. And hopefully things will get better in the next year or two!

Craig Sundstrom
10 years 11 months ago

Let’s not get too excited here: it’s a Barneys CoOp, not a “real” Barneys, and whatever it is, it will be a small drop of $xy.z million in sales in what is probably a $ a.bc billion market.

As for extrapolating this around the country, I say “no”: even if this is truly some kind of phenomenon, I think it’s one of those New York specific ones…Jonathon’s comments really hit home (literally): I’ve been waiting for Oakland’s supposedly “inevitable” rebirth since I realized that retail wasn’t something a dog could wag, and I think people in underloved sibling cities around the country would say the same thing.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 11 months ago

Ah, to be young, fashionable, and luxurious (or luggzurious). And to care about all this. I really dislike New York-centric postulations. I’m a FoxTV fan, but was severely ticked off last year when they reported the size of our SoCal fires in increments of Central Park. “It’s ten times the size of Central Park,” they breathlessly reported. Of course, all we Californians carry around the dimensions of Central Park in our heads. Oh, my! Where to shop in NY! I’m so confused. Which of these stores is near Central Park?


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