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NYC's iconic 5th Avenue gives a Christmas makeover to vacant window displays

Sarah A. Smith
Segment Producer/Booker

New York City's iconic Fifth Avenue retail windows got a holiday makeover this year, adding some much needed sparkle to four empty store fronts.

Vast swaths of window space were left vacant this year, after flagship locations for PVH-owned Tommy Hilfiger, Henri Bendel, Massimo Dutti and Polo Ralph Lauren (RL) closed their doors.

A number of other retailers have moved off the famous shopping stretch in the last several years, making it more challenging to continue its long-standing holiday tradition.

“Any healthy retail corridor will have stores moving in, stores moving out, and you would expect to see that on Fifth Avenue, which is the leading shopping street in the world,” Jerome Barth, president of The Fifth Avenue Association, told Yahoo Finance.

“All the best stores want to be there, and all the best brands want to be there,” he added.

The Fifth Avenue Association, which represents the over 120 merchants in the midtown Manhattan shopping district, stepped in to help revamp the annual display with a unifying theme it called “New York Nostalgia.”

“What we chose to do this year was to tap into the great experience of what Fifth Avenue is and the memories that people have of going down and seeing all the spectacle of all these windows,” said Barth. “We had the opportunity to work with landlords to produce some high quality, non commercial based displays but with a single theme.” 

While the high rent for commercial real estate in New York City is a factor, changes in consumer behavior can’t be ignored.

The holiday window restructure comes at a time where e-commerce is king, and brick and mortar stores are falling victim to a ‘retail apocalypse’ characterized by closing locations and lost jobs. Over 9,200 retail store closings were announced in 2019 — almost 60% higher than the year prior, according to Coresight Research.

“I think what you're seeing is Fifth Avenue adapting to the desires and the needs of the modern luxury consumer,” said Barth. “It’s still the greatest street for luxury retail, but the luxury consumer today is looking at different things.”

Barth pointed to Nike (NKE) as an example of a retailer that is seeing the investment on its Fifth Avenue location pay off. The athletic brand opened its 'Nike House of Innovation 000’ late last year, but Barth claimed the “store is packed all day long.”

The 68,000 square feet, six-story flagship has found ways to elevate the customer experience and reach a wide variety of customers.  

 “The merchants that are successful on Fifth Avenue today are the one’s that always manage to tie the online experience, the underground experience of a flagship store, which needs to be more than just presenting a lot of product,” said Barth — hinting that the association has more magic up its sleeve for the new year.

“What you can expect is that what we will do is seek to keep providing interesting experiences that help tie together all the stories and all the activities of these different retailers,” he added.

Sarah Smith is a Segment Producer/Booker at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahasmith

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