Visitors to Manhattan are finding that several retail landmarks are fading fast
There is a lot to do in Manhattan but shopping? Maybe not so much these days. Once one of the hottest markets on the planet, New Yorks retail sector is suffering.
Surveying the empty storefronts on Fifth Avenue, holidaymaker Gill Stewart, from Stokesley in Yorkshire, said she was surprised by the number of vacancies. Weve come across a few places that are empty or under refurbishment, certainly many more than we expected, she said. As the family wondered which direction to go in, Stewart noted that her teenage children, Nathan and Eleanor, werent even clamouring to visit the shops.
Her daughter confirmed that the focus of their New York experience was shifting. In the past, weve bought things without the intention of shopping, Eleanor said. On this trip we havent unexpectedly got anything.
Attitudes like that should give New Yorks retailers and legislators pause for thought. The city is by far the largest tourist destination in the US, and whether that is for sightseeing or shopping, the decline of the Manhattan consumer experience could limit the citys appeal.
On Fifth Avenue, Vince Wang and his family, visiting from Shanghai, said China had also been hit by a retail downturn, but it was a surprise to find the same trend in Manhattan. Chinese who shop for luxury goods often do so in the US or Europe, but compared to 10 years ago a lot of shops have disappeared, he said.
The striking deterioration of some of Manhattans most popular shopping districts was underscored by the decision on Monday by Barneys, the citys famous fashion emporium, to seek bankruptcy protection.
The dire financial position at Barneys has emerged as other retail landmarks in the city have already closed their doors. Lord & Taylor one of the citys largest department stores, with an entire building on Fifth Avenue recently closed down; its space was sold off to WeWork, the office rental company, and Amazon.
It is worse outside Manhattan. Over the next five years, one in every four malls in the US is projected to close, Credit Suisse says. Already, the square footage of dead malls in the US covers more land than the city of Boston.
But given Manhattans enviable exposure to tourist dollars, the retail collapse in New York shows that the malaise isnt limited to out-of-town centres. High-end luxury goods purveyors along the retail corridors of leading cities, including New Yorks Madison Avenue, Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and Chicagos Magnificent Mile, are all suffering.
According to recent estimates, certain swaths of Manhattan now have vacancy rates of 25%, when 5% is considered normal. And the carnage is getting worse, with the US forecast to lose 12,000 stores this year far above 2018s record losses of more than 5,800 sites.