Why New York City’s String of Empty Retail Spaces Brings New Opportunities For Fledgling Brands

Take a stroll down New York City’s famed streets and you won’t be able to miss them: Empty storefronts plastered with “For Rent” signs line the stretches of 14th Street, SoHo and Fifth Avenue, haunted by the ghosts of failed businesses in a city known for its skyrocketing costs.

However, past their exteriors, these untenanted buildings and shuttered establishments tell a different and much bigger story — that is, the commercial revitalization happening across the five boroughs. In other words, the vacancies translate to opportunities for retailers to attempt new developments, whether it’s through individual retail spaces or assemblages like Brookfield Place in Battery Park City and the soon-to-arrive Hudson Yards shopping center.

“Landlords are listening to the market and adjusting retail rents accordingly and are more willing to negotiate with retailers, whether it’s with a short-term lease or with concession packages,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Douglas Elliman’s retail leasing and sales division. “Many international brands, who would have never contemplated entering the tough NYC market, are taking the opportunity to seek deals.”

From pop-ups to experiential stores, brick-and-mortars continue to prove that they’re relevant, and retailers are capitalizing on streets frequented by shoppers in the hopes of becoming neighborhood mainstays. Sydney-based luxury accessories label The Daily Edited recently renewed its lease at 385 Bleecker St. for another year following the traffic drawn by its personalized leather goods, according to Consolo. Last fall, eco-friendly brand Allbirds entered the SoHo market, cutting the ribbon to its first NYC location. And Greats, which runs a showroom out of its Brooklyn headquarters, will officially launch a separate store after debuting its first Los Angeles outpost today.

With vacancies happening all over the city — and not concentrated in just Manhattan or Brooklyn — retailers are looking everywhere, particularly at the more traditional localities that boast spending power, including the Upper East Side and the Flatiron District. Consolo also cited the Lower East Side for its relatively inexpensive commercial rents and evolving clientele.

“There’s just a change, there’s a turnover, and then of course there’s a natural attrition,” Consolo said. “What’s old is new, what’s new is old, but we have a lot of new, great companies coming into the market.”

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