Sneak Peek at Hudson Yards Retail Shops: Can They Revitalize Mall Shopping in NYC?

The-Great-Room-at-The-Shops-at-Hudson-Yards-Courtesy-Related-Oxford.jpg

A preview of the glittering Hudson Yards Shops anchored by NYC’s first Neiman Marcus suggest the affirmative

By Lauren Parker

New Yorkers hate the word mall—a four-letter word that lately evokes suburban blight, retail redundancy and vacant storefronts. However, the Hudson Yards Shops & Restaurants development on Manhattan’s far west side aims to change all that.

 At 12:00 p.m. on Friday, March 15, Hudson Yards’ 1-million square foot retail/dining space flings opens its multiple doors to the public, welcoming tourists and locals alike to 100 retail stores and a first-ever Manhattan Neiman Marcus. The opening coincides with the larger, $25 billion mixed-use Hudson Yards development project, featuring 28 acres of commercial, residential, retail, arts and parks, spanning 30th to 34th Streets between 10th and 12th Avenues.

 Journalists got a private sneak peek Tuesday at the Shops & Restaurants, and despite workers still buffing floors, hanging signs and dressing mannequins, the mall’s impressive scope wasn’t dimmed. Ritzy storefronts like Fendi, Dior and Cartier conceal what was once a gritty part of New York (perhaps a metaphor for the high-end takeover of the City on all fronts?) but more democratic brands like Zara and H&M will definitely speak to the masses. Brands like Aritzia, Athleta, Banana Republic, Coach and Stuart Weitzman round out the pricepoints. The challenge will be to make sure the shopping zone is integrated into the fabric of the city, landing as a major destination spot.

Louis Vuitton Exterior Level 5, The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards - courtesy of Francis Dzikowski for Related-Oxford.jpg

Malls have had a spotty history in Manhattan, consisting mainly of Manhattan Mall in midtown (anchored by middle market JCPenney), the tony Brookfield Place downtown (where Saks closed its doors after just two years), Time Warner Center uptown (often a Whole Foods destination), and the most recent Westfield World Trade Center (best known as a commuter hub). Can Hudson Yards, which also aims to be a dining and experiential destination, reverse the trend?

Vessel and Exterior of The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards - courtesy of Francis Dzikowski for Related-Oxford

Vessel and Exterior of The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards - courtesy of Francis Dzikowski for Related-Oxford

55 Hudson Yards Viewed from the High Line - courtesy of Related-Oxford-Mitsui

55 Hudson Yards Viewed from the High Line - courtesy of Related-Oxford-Mitsui

Hudson Yards developers are betting that the 28-acre space—with its climbable Vessel structure, performing arts Shed and fancy real estate—will funnel the retail space with businesspeople, locals, tourists and convention goers alike. The nearby Highline Park connects directly into Hudson Yards, while the recently constructed subway station can shuttle Manhattanites who live further afield. Meanwhile, businesspeople leaving the nearby Javits Center can easily take a client to an upscale dinner after a trade show.

 Webber Hudson, Executive Vice President for developer Related, projects that 15 million to 22 million visitors per year will visit the shops, with tourists comprising roughly 40 percent.

“We curated The Shops & Restaurants with New Yorkers and the customer in mind, creating a suite of hospitality amenities never before seen in a shopping center, and embracing demand for differentiated dining and cultural experiences,” says Kenneth A. Himmel, President and CEO of Related Urban, the mixed-use division of co-developer Related Companies. The Shops are already 85% leased.

North Gallery, The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards. Courtesy of Related-Oxford

North Gallery, The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards. Courtesy of Related-Oxford

Digitally Native Brands Comprise Floor of Discovery

 While the ground floor is mostly designer brands, things get a bit more hip one flight up. The so-called Floor of Discovery features digitally native brands connecting with consumers offline, many on permanent brick-and-mortar spaces for the first time. And while most stores have 10-year leases, those on the Floor of Discovery are much less, according to Related, allowing for more flexibility and new discoveries for consumers.

 “After experimenting with various pop-up formats in NYC, we are thrilled to be setting down permanent roots at Hudson Yards. This space will allow us to create M.Gemi’s most immersive retail experience yet. Our shoppers will enjoy an Italian cafe-inspired space, complete with VIP shopping appointments powered by Resy and community events,” said Cheryl Kaplan, Co-Founder & President of M.Gemi.  

Heidi Klein Exterior Level 2, The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards. Courtesy of Francis Dzikowski for Related-Oxford

Heidi Klein Exterior Level 2, The Shops & Restaurants at Hudson Yards. Courtesy of Francis Dzikowski for Related-Oxford

Other retailers include: Milk & Honey Babies; MUJI, which will include a custom embroidery station and in-store coffee service; Stance; b8ta’s first in-line store in New York City; FRANKIE CoLAB’s first permanent flagship store in New York; a revolving themed concept store BATCH.

Food and beverage offerings on this floor include a new dine-in concept from Citarella; The Drug Store, a retail concept from DIRTY LEMON parent company Iris Nova, featuring a bar experience alongside a cashierless vending store; and Momofuku’s Fuku. The mall offers uniqueness in other ways, too, from the 3DEN (pronounced EDEN) pay-as-you-go private spaces where people can nap, work or take a shower, or freshen up; perfect for while the wife shops.

And while most malls tend to be more horizontally sprawling, “The Shops aren’t just vertical retail, but vertical hospitality with restaurants and experiential spaces,” says Himmel.  And it’s designed to move people through the space with open views that highlight escalators. “It’s really open with sightlines that bring your eye upward.” To that end, Neiman Marcus, which is on the 5th and 6th floors, sits high and towering, in view from the ground floor. 

View of Neiman Marcus entrance from The Shops at Hudson Yards. Courtesy of Related-Oxford

View of Neiman Marcus entrance from The Shops at Hudson Yards. Courtesy of Related-Oxford

Neiman Marcus Hits NYC

 The retail pièce de résistance is definitely Neiman Marcus, and many New Yorkers are giddy to experience the famed retailer either for the first time or without having to drive to New Jersey or Long Island.

 Interestingly, Neiman Marcus shares the 5th floor with Forty Five Ten, another Dallas fashion retailer, which is laid out on the floor with multiple storefronts. The New York location will be the second largest for the brand, following its 2016 flagship opened in downtown Dallas.

 The 188,000-square foot Neiman Marcus itself promises consumers a new shopping experience, with 8,000-square-feet of ladies shoes throughout the store, the retailer’s largest shoe footprint in the country. Experiences will be high on the list, setting the store apart. There’s Neiman Marcus Live—an intimate in-store performance space that can host fashion shows, project videos, host podcast events, book signings and more—as well as coffee shops, bars and cooking classes. There will even be flowers sold.

Restaurant view of Neiman Marcus. Courtesy of Related-Oxford

Restaurant view of Neiman Marcus. Courtesy of Related-Oxford

There are fashion and beauty amenities too, aside from dressing rooms larger than most New York studio apartments. There’s Neiman Marcus Fitting Room Assistant—a digital platform that lets you scan items upon entering and then text a floor assistant via interactive touchscreens for replacements or updates. There’s also a Digital Styling Lounge, a growing program where online stylists send clients lookbooks then invite them into the store to try on their selections. There’s a vintage clothing section, a cobbler and custom cowboy boot shop (remember y’all, Neiman Marcus is from Dallas!), and vintage video arcades in the men’s department. Beauty services for hair, brows, nails and face are also highlighted at the shop-in-shop BLVD.

 The store is airy with store-wide sightlines, and consumers can walk a 360 around each caseline presentation. Fine jewelry is merchandised alongside fashion jewelry, a floor above much of the other accessories. 

 The store offers views of the Hudson River, priceless original artworks, vintage black and white photos by Bill Cunningham, and beautiful dining options

 Overall, the entire mall has a very high end feel, with lots of glitz, glam and shine. But would a touch of urban grit with say, edgy concrete floors instead of high-shine polished stone been a better suited idea? Discuss…

Noor Nanda