Last week Team New West End were in New York on a dual mission to promote the importance of British luxury brands to the American market and encourage investment into our world leading shopping and leisure destination.
One of our major activities was a Luxury Showcase with Walpole, the official sector body for UK luxury, led by CEO Helen Brocklebank. Bond Street & Mayfair were represented at a bespoke space alongside other luxury brands. It was a great platform to share the unique mix of fashion, fine jewellery, art, craftsmanship and culture in Bond Street & Mayfair to fashion and luxury media and opinion formers who attended the fair.
During the week Walpole also honoured Glenda Bailey OBE – the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar US – with a special lunch hosted by Frank A. Bennack Jr., Executive Vice Chairman and former CEO of Hearst and attended by Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP, where she was presented with the Walpole Award for Promoting British Luxury Overseas designed by Wedgwood.
Here are the key themes in American retail and real estate that we identified during the trip:
The future of retail is digital, the future of brand is physical
The idea that although more customers are shopping online, the importance of physical retail space to build a brand is undeniable, kept emerging as we met with luxury experts, retailers and real estate developers in New York. The experience shoppers have in a bricks and mortar retail environment generates the emotion they feel towards the brand, so it is vital they are linked and neither one is downgraded. Melina Cordero, Head of Global Insights at CBRE shared their research with us that shows when physical stores close down, online sales in the immediate vicinity decrease.
Successful retail must offer consumers convenience and an easy shopping experience both online and in store. This is an interesting concept for luxury sector, who pride themselves on a high quality experience in store. The challenge will now be how to translate that luxury experience online.
Millennials are driving luxury
Millennials were a huge topic of conversation everywhere we went and according to CBRE are driving 85% of growth in luxury market globally.
What is key now is finding the gap to target them. One example was inclusive sizing, as more companies realise the mass market does not cater towards plus-size customers. Universal Standard is one company we came across for whom ‘plus-size clothing is just clothing’.
Equally mass-market brands will not survive if they remain solely in the fashion space. Retailers are diversifying, not only their sizing but also their ranges in order to appeal to millennials.
Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have but a must for all brands. The ‘rent the runway’ trend is expanding as millennials move away from consumerism but still want to be seen on Instagram never wearing same outfit twice. This trend is definitely one to watch.
Retailtainment is here
We had the privilege of visiting the new ‘retailtainment’ complex ‘American Dream’, in New Jersey. The man behind the largest shopping and leisure mall in the northern hemisphere, was our guest keynote speaker at our member briefing in the summer – Don Ghermezian, President of Triple Five Group. Following his presentation of the plans for the complex back in January, he invited us for a private tour of the site. Due to open next year, the centre has an impressive list of retailers, leisure parks, food & beverage halls, on a scale unlike anything in Europe. It is leading the way on the combined retail and leisure approach and all eyes are on the complex for its opening year.
Another example was Hudson Yards, a new complex in Manhattan being co-developed by our partners Oxford Properties. We were given a tour by Ofer Zer from the real estate company and it was great to see an operating environment that successfully combines office space, residential apartments and retail.
Partnership is power
In New York we also linked up with our existing UK partners to jointly meet with new brands and tourist operators to advise on integration into the UK market. This included Stephen Feline, Vice President Business Development at London & Partners, Stephanie Rothman, USA Retail Campaign Manager at the Department for International Trade (DIT), Sarah Anderson, Head of Brand and Partnerships at the GREAT Campaign and Paul Gauger, Senior Vice President at Visit Britain.
I was able to brief first-hand the Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP on the issue tax-free shopping and how vital it is to digitalise the system for international shoppers to safeguard the UK’s international competitiveness after Brexit.
It was also fascinating to meet with our New York BID counterparts. We met with Matthew Bauer, President of Madison Avenue BID and Tim Tompkins, President of Time Square Alliance to understand their challenges and work out how to share learnings moving forward.
We must also mention one of our members, property owner in London’s West End and owner of retail brand Century 21, with whom it was great to base and update them on our latest work in London.
We learnt that our knowledge about the West End & Mayfair, planning and markets put us in the best position to advise new brands, investors and agents coming to the UK from America. Although similar, the markets are different and we hope as a neutral party we can encourage additional investment to ensure our 74 central London streets maintain their status as a world-leading shopping and leisure centre.