Retail

The Changing Face Of Retail In Times Square

Who doesn’t like a trip to Times Square?

After all, it’s not called the Crossroads of the World for nothing.

And a ton of people visit Times Square every day. A ton.

Times Square is the most visited place in the world daily, with roughly 360,000 pedestrians swinging by each and every day, according to the Times Square Alliance. That’s more than 131 million visitors a year!

It’s also, arguably, the heart of New York City’s economy and the City That Never Sleep’s greatest tourist attraction.

Sure, you could make an argument for Wall Street as New York’s economic engine and the Statute of Liberty or the Empire State Building as its top tourists draws, but a study by the Times Square Alliance found that $0.22 out of every dollar spent by visitors to New York City is spent in Times Square. That amounts to $4.8 billion annually in retail, entertainment and hotel sales.

That’s a lot of money.

It’s also the city’s second most valuable retail real estate, behind only Fifth Avenue from 49th to 59th street, according to the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY). Retail real estate in Times Square rents for $2,363 a square foot. Retail rental space on Fifth Avenue rents for $3,398 a square foot, but those prices have fallen more than 8 percent in the past year, whereas Times Square prices have only dipped by 2 percent.

But big changes are coming to Times Square, and they could reshape one of the world’s best known and most shopped retail meccas.

The changes started coming for Times Square last December when Toys“R”Us moved its flagship store out of the 160,000-square-foot Bow Tie Building in the center of Times Square on Broadway between West 44th and 45th streets.

Toys“R”Us had occupied the space since 2001, but the move wasn’t so much a case of Times Square no longer being a valuable location to house a brand’s flagship store as it was the toy giant simply trying to cut costs. Toys“R”Us’ only remaining retail location in Manhattan, which has some of the highest retail rental prices in the world, is a Babies“R”Us location in Union Square.

It wasn’t long, however, before Gap and Old Navy swooped in to fill the void left by Toys“R”Us’ departure, and owners of the Bow Tie Building — so called because that is the shape that the crossing of Broadway and 7th Avenue make — are currently in the process of renovating the historic building to accommodate the new tenants and also add 25,000 square feet of additional retail space.

Gap and Old Navy, which will both occupy 31,000 square feet of ground level retail space in the building, are expected to open their flagship Times Square stores sometime in early 2017.

Hershey also wants a bigger and more interactive location in Times Square to help grow its brand and entice new customers. The chocolate maker announced last week that it was moving its current flagship store from Broadway and West 48th Street, which it opened in 2012, to the hot new 20 Times Square location. The new location, planned to open in 2017, will be three times bigger than Hershey’s current Times Square flagship and offer more “bells and whistles,” such as a state-of-the-art digital billboard.

And 20 Times Square is a name you should expect to hear a lot more of in the future.

The 39-story building, being developed by the Witkoff Group, will feature a 452-room Marriott hotel, 76,000 square feet of retail space, an 18,000-square-foot LED sign and a 350-seat theater.

The National Football League has already booked 40,000 square feet of that space, with a prominent presence on the first floor, to open a permanent store and NFL Experience attraction. It’s an ambitious foray into one of the world’s most visible retail locations for America’s most popular sports brand and will feature plenty of NFL apparel for sale, an archive of NFL films, interactive exhibits that immerse fans in the NFL game day experience and a four-story videoboard outside the building, where live games might even be streamed in the fall. The NFL Experience is expected to open at 20 Times Square in November.

Cirque du Soleil has also booked space for a fan exhibit in the new building, which Witkoff CEO Steven Witkoff boasts is “fast becoming one of the highest-profile retail locations in the world.”

20 Times Square will also feature a number of bars, restaurants, other highly recognizable retail stores and a cabaret.

Foot Locker also plans to open a 36,000-square-foot House of Hoops flagship store at Broadway and West 41st Street.

And National Geographic, Kellogg’s and Gulliver’s Gate, the “world’s largest pint-sized tourist attraction,” which will occupy the former New York Times Building at 216 West 44th Street, have all signed leases for new “experience” locations in Times Square.

It appears more and more that this will be the future of retail in Times Square: bold, gaudy, one-of-a-kind experiences that consumers will not be able to find anywhere else in the world.

Which, as any New Yorker will tell you, is only fitting for a place nicknamed the Crossroads of the World.

And lastly, a little known fact about Times Square: It was originally named Longacre Square but was rechristened Times Square in 1904 after The New York Times moved its headquarters to the Times Building, which became known as One Times Square.

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