Several months ago, Brooks Brothers opened its first children’s store in Manhattan, on Madison Avenue and 86th Street.
With Catimini, a trendy boutique for school kids, and Baby Cottons, a sleepwear shop, all within the span of several blocks, Madison Avenue has fast become a shopping destination for affluent parents.
“Normally people move to the suburbs, but people are tending to stay,” said Gary Alterman, a senior vice president at RKF. Between 2000 and 2006, according to the New York Times, Manhattan’s five-and-under crowd increased by over 32%, and has only continued to boom.
Kid-centric retailers are picking up on this trend: over the last decade, Alterman has helped New York Kids Club, a play center for infants through 12-year-olds, secure five locations across Manhattan. Two are on the Upper West Side, a traditional magnet for young families. Others serve children in the Upper East Side, Gramercy Park, and TriBeCa.
As strollers crowd the city’s sidewalks in greater numbers, the company is looking to expand; already, it’s opened a recreation space near Montague Street, a vibrant retail corridor in Brooklyn Heights. Next on the list is Park Slope, Alterman said. In nearby Boerum Hill, Gumbo, an artsy boutique, sells handcrafted gifts and offers music classes for toddlers – as well as sewing and Spanish lessons for their parents.
“Brooklyn is a hot place,” said Alterman. But children’s stores are popping up in emerging neighborhoods citywide. Giggle, an upscale clothier with outposts in SoHo and upper Manhattan, is scouting sites in Long Island City, where a handful of luxury towers have attracted families in recent years.
Soon, Alterman predicts that Roosevelt Island, a small slice of suburbia between midtown and Queens, will see an influx of child-friendly retail.
Outside the five boroughs, downtown Jersey City has seen a fair share of activity. Next Step Broadway, a dance studio on the ground floor of Hamilton Square, a condominium development that opened last fall, offers tap and jazz classes for toddlers.
When a pediatric practice launched elsewhere in the development, “parents went crazy,” said Sawyer Smith, director of sales at the building. A baby supply shop recently leased a 400 s/f storefront, Smith said, and will provide neighborhood families with basics like diapers and bottles when it opens next month.
Duck Duck Goose, a consignment shop on Erie Street, sold clothing for youngsters before shutting down last May.
While trendy neighborhoods like Hamilton Park are prized for their quaint shops and green spaces, their public schools can leave much to be desired. To accommodate affluent parents, “there’s been a proliferation of private schools,” said Alterman.
Down the block from Hamilton Square is Hamilton Park Montessori, an institution serving preschoolers through nine year olds that, according to a recent advertisement, offers bilingual programs in Hindi, Chinese, French, and Spanish.
The Avenues World School, an academy with study-abroad campuses across Europe and Asia, is under construction on Tenth Avenue in far west Chelsea, and is slated to open next year.
Several years after opening in the East Village, the Blue School, a preschool founded by a member of the Blue Man Group, a popular theater troupe, leased space for a new academy near the South Street Seaport, in one of the city’s hottest new residential enclaves.
“Another school is opening on Broadway and Bowling Green,” Alterman added. “They’re down on Wall Street, on Broad Street.”
Where schools are built – whether in recent months or decades ago – retail for the pint-sized naturally tends to follow. Last month, Winick Realty secured a lease for Beehives and Buzzcuts, a children’s hair salon, on First Avenue between 21st and 22nd Street. At the 2,500 s/f shop, young style mavens can get haircuts and pedicures and throw birthday parties.
“With five schools in the area and the large number of families living in nearby Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, this is the ideal location for Beehives & Buzzcuts,” said Brian Tregerman, who represented the salon’s owner and landlord along with Joseph Isa, a managing director at Winick.
Though classes don’t begin until September, some stores have already kicked off back-to-school promotions, said Alterman, the RKF broker.
The frenzy to purchase school supplies and autumn clothes, which usually begins around mid-July, accounts for over 16% of annual retail sales, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
After several glum seasons, the ICSC predicts that sales are slated to rise by 3%, to a total of $39 billion.
That’s good news for trendy boutiques like Giggle and big-box retailers alike – as well as businesses that keep children entertained while mom and dad shop for binders and colored pencils.
CB Richard Ellis is helping KidZania, a chain of outdoor “edutainment” centers located near malls, select a flagship location in New York or Los Angeles. At outposts around the globe, including Mexico City, parents drop off their children while they shop.
“For families, KidZania is entertaining, engaging, educational and fun,” said Cammie Dunaway, head of global marketing at KidZania. “For malls, it provides high repetition entertainment that drives traffic.”