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Apparel Insiders: Gotham’s Queen of Retail

 

As the chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Retail Leasing and Sales Division, Faith Hope Consolo always has the keys to the city.

With her immaculately coiffed blonde hair, chic suits and touch of bling, Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s Retail Leasing and Sales Division, is one of the most recognizable figures in the specialized world of retail real estate.

But it’s not only her elegant mien that sets her apart. Consolo, who’s been dubbed the Queen of Retail, plays a prominent role in revitalizing and shaping retail corridors in Manhattan and across the nation. Truly a mover and shaker, she’s been instrumental in facilitating the transformation of neighborhoods such as Times Square and Herald Square into shopping districts and she’s maximized her far-reaching expertise in the realm of luxury goods, too, helping to reignite the glitter and glamour of Madison Avenue’s ‘Golden Mile.’  With an unerring eye, Consolo and her team excel at targeting the right neighborhoods for high-profile companies from around the world, securing leases that benefit landlords and tenants as well as the neighboring stores and communities.

Apparel Insiders recently caught up with Consolo to talk about the go-to shopping neighborhoods in Manhattan and the boroughs and to get the dirt on some of the latest retail trends and emerging areas. Without question, Consolo has her finger on the pulse of New York’s mercurial retail scene.

AI: Soho still seems to be the epicenter of retail with new stores opening left and right. That’s certainly been a trend over the past few years but it seems to be in overdrive! Why is Soho still the retail hot spot and why does it draw so many European companies?
FHC: Soho may once have been a redeveloping area for struggling artists, but that was a long, long time ago. Now, it’s an exceptionally affluent trendy area with an artistic sensibility, making it perfect for European designers. Yet it’s still a neighborhood. It really is the ultimate New York.

AI: What other NYC neighborhoods are ‘on fire’ right now? Are the West Village, Meatpacking District, the Golden Mile, Herald Square and Midtown in the 40s still in demand? Are there any areas that are emerging that might not be on many shoppers’ radar just yet?
FHC:
The [economic] downturn opened opportunities for retailers and brands to come to the marquee streets that were unaffordable before — Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue — and has helped to expand retail near Herald Square and Times Square. With those areas now pretty full up, we are seeing interest returning to the Meatpacking, particularly as the Highline is expanding, and to some of the side streets near the prime boulevards. Continue to keep an eye on Harlem as the residential development continues.

AI: What other NYC neighborhoods are ‘on fire’ right now? Are the West Village, Meatpacking District, the Golden Mile, Herald Square and Midtown in the 40s still in demand? Are there any areas that are emerging that might not be on many shoppers’ radar just yet?
FHC: The [economic] downturn opened opportunities for retailers and brands to come to the marquee streets that were unaffordable before — Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue — and has helped to expand retail near Herald Square and Times Square. With those areas now pretty full up, we are seeing interest returning to the Meatpacking, particularly as the Highline is expanding, and to some of the side streets near the prime boulevards. Continue to keep an eye on Harlem as the residential development continues.

AI: Ten years ago the shopping center and/or mall was the antithesis of the New York City shopping experience but that’s no longer the case thanks to destinations like the Time Warner Center and Columbus Square, a unique center of sorts that seems to be expanding. And then, of course, we have Hudson Yards to look forward to in 2017. Any theories as to why customers and retailers are more receptive to that type of shopping environment?
FHC: With Time Warner, the urban mall was done right for the first time in New York City — do not underestimate the importance of the Whole Foods in that complex. It essentially is the dining room for a good chunk of that neighborhood. That has gotten New Yorkers more accustomed to the format. Retailers, of course, want to be around successful neighbors, and Hudson Yards will have the advantage of parking fields that will be familiar to them.

AI: Why did the mixed-use Limelight Marketplace fail to meet expectations? True, Todd English’s new Cross Bar restaurant just opened there and Grimaldi’s and Cana Wine Bar will remain on board, but the independent apparel and accessories vendors are gone or leaving. According to recent press reports, owner Jack Menashe now plans to convert the three-floor Gothic-Revival church into a single department store called Limelight, slated to open in September.
FHC: Limelight was an interesting experiment, but its location may have been a challenge. It’s not close enough to the tourism centers to draw out-of-towners regularly, and mostly just drew from those people living or working in the area. People will come to a different neighborhood for a nightclub, but not necessarily for unusual shopping — at least not often enough for it to be successful. And without major, major names to draw the interest, it was going to be tough, especially during an economic recovery.

AI: Has the expansion of the Highline been a boost to retailers’ business and their plans for the future?
FHC: Any time you build a place where people want to gather, retail will eventually follow. It just takes time, patience and the help of a good negotiator! So of course, the Highline will help boost retail in the area — it already has in parts of Meatpacking.

AI: Popular contemporary brands are also opening stores with greater frequency. Milly and Joie, for instance, both opened this spring. Do you see that trend continuing going forward?
FHC: Absolutely. Opening its own stores is a tried-and-true way for a brand to control the presentation of its product and to show its full line of goods. That’s how you become a world-class name.

AI: Fall is always one of the most thrilling seasons for shoppers around the city. What are some of the most exciting retail openings coming up for the fall season?
FHC: Uniqlo on Fifth Avenue, of course, will be literally the biggest opening. Anthropologie will debut a huge two-level store on the Upper East Side. Designers relocating to or opening new stores in Soho include Stella McCartney, YSL, Carlos Campos, and Balenciaga. It’s busy and getting busier!

AI: On the Brooklyn front do you know of any retailers that are planning on opening in the vicinity of the controversial Atlantic Yards development, which also includes the sports venue Barclays Center? Does Atlantic Yards present an opportunity for retailers? Will those retailers help change the character of Downtown Brooklyn?
FHC: There are rumors of a Dave & Busters — or a similar concept — to come to the area. That would be perfect given the Barclays Center — people attending an event need somewhere to dine/be entertained, as do the many commuters who go through the subway and LIRR stations at the site.  Rent increases will drive more trendy shops. Already, a number of boutiques are moving from Soho to Brooklyn. Given the presence of Barneys Co-Op and Trader Joe’s not too far away, I wouldn’t be surprised to see much more upscale shopping near the project. Atlantic Yards will complement and continue what’s already going on in the area: increasingly upscale shops and restaurants that match the pricey residences in Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill.

AI: If you could change one thing about doing business in the retail end of the apparel industry, what would it be?
FHC: Anyone who’s hired someone who’s not Prudential Douglas Elliman? Seriously, there isn’t much I would change. You always want tenants and landlords with reasonable expectations and the ability to compromise to find the best deal. I want even more globalization. But overall this business runs well.

For more information about Faith Hope Consolo, go to www.faith-consolo.com.

-Randi Gollin

 

 

 

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