For decades, Eneslow Shoes & Orthotics has resided on New York City’s Park Avenue — just two blocks away from the landmark Empire State Building in the heart of Manhattan. But this weekend, the retailer will be shutting those doors for good.
The comfort shoe chain is permanently closing up shop at its 470 Park Avenue South flagship. In an interview with FN, president and CEO Robert Schwartz — whose family acquired the business 50 years ago — said that the COVID-19 health crisis was the final nail in the coffin for that outpost, which has also contended in recent years with the rise in e-commerce and skyrocketing rents.
“Overall, [the business has been] 70% down since the pandemic [hit] — with no recovery in sight,” Schwartz told FN. “Manhattan is a ghost town. It’s even worse in Midtown Manhattan because there’s nobody in these buildings all around us.”
Eneslow is approaching its 112th year in business; it celebrates another anniversary in January. It has two other locations in the city — one in the Upper East Side on 1319 Third Avenue, which will become its new flagship store, and the other in Queens on 249-38 Horace Harding Expressway. According to Schwartz, the vast majority of its sales — that is, 90% — are derived from brick and mortar, while it operates a “small base” of e-commerce.
“That, of course, is going to have to change,” he added. “[Brick and mortar] is still a place where our customers need us, and we’ll be able to survive that, but we’re going from 30,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet.”
As it spends its last days on Park Avenue, Eneslow has been informing customers of the closure through signs posted on its windows and word of mouth. Although the retailer has been directing local shoppers and patrons to its other boutiques in the city, Schwartz said it doesn’t predict an improvement in foot traffic and subsequently sales — particularly as the country faces a surge in coronavirus cases and the business heads into the first quarter, which is traditionally the slowest fiscal period for retail.
“Unfortunately, we’re in no recovery anytime soon with New York’s current state of being,” he said. “All three stores are basically mired in the same rhythm. Until people take the train and the bus to come back into the city, go to restaurants or the theater or even their offices just to work, we’re not going to see any daylight.”
According to Coresight Research, the retail sector has seen 8,688 store shutdowns in the year to date. The research and advisory firm has also predicted a record-high 25,000 closures in 2020 as companies struggle to keep up with shifting consumer trends, invest their resources in digital platforms and adapt to a new brick-and-mortar environment transformed by the pandemic.
This story has been updated to note that Eneslow’s flagship will move from the Park Avenue address, which is closing, to its existing store on Third Avenue.