By Sarah Trefethen
Online shopping may be all the rage, but retail’s biggest cheerleaders say don’t rule out the brick and mortar shops just yet.
“The way to address this is to continue with the pop-up concept to challenge the online, and try new concepts,” said Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of the Retail Group at Douglas Elliman. “(Retailers) are putting up an offence.”
Consolo chaired the “Fitness and Fashion: Women who Shop” panel at the second annual Real Estate Weekly Women’s Forum today (Wednesday), bringing together retailers, landlords, brokers and neighborhood advocates to discuss the future of retail real estate.
Brittney Bragg, COO of Crown Acquisitions, and Laura Rapaport of L&L Holding Company represented the landlords’ perspective.
Crown is heavily invested in Manhattan retail spaces, including holdings in Times Square, SoHo and fifth Avenue. “They have a lot of money and they have staying power for their investments,” Consolo said. “They’re not short-term investors; they’re long-term investors.”
Representatives of two retailers, Brooks Brother and Lululemon, discussed how their respective companies approach leasing in Manhattan.
Consolo described Brooks Brothers as “an old-line firm that keeps reinventing itself” and praised Lululemon’s trailblazing in the world of fitness fashion.
Other panelists included Consolo’s sometimes rival, Jill Lovatt, first vice president of retail leasing at Massey Knakal, an expert on East Side retail and Massey Knakal’s Leasing Agent of the Year for 2012.
Also appearing on the panel were Jennifer Falk of the Union Square Partnership, who was grilled by Consolo on the partnership’s plans for the future of the neighborhood.
According to the self-styled “Queen of Retail” shopping is still the number one form of entertainment. “Everyone in New York City who thinks we’re over-stored now — they have no idea,” Consolo said, arguing that demand for off-line, real world retail experiences is as strong today as it ever was. “Not only has no one stopped shopping, they’re back with a vengeance.”