Luxury brands are finally returning to New York City’s Fifth and Madison Avenues. Here’s why


The two New York streets have landed high-profile tenants such as Sotheby’s and Chanel

Two of the Big Apple’s most famous streets are in the midst of a revival.

Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue are finally gaining more luxury boutiques after dealing with a retail exodus. The number of empty shopfronts in New York has been climbing for the past decade, with increased rents and the influx of online shopping pushing a large number of retailers out of the city. Around one in 10 storefronts in Manhattan were empty in 2019, according to data gathered by the city council. The pandemic further exacerbated things, leading to record vacancy rates in some neighbourhoods.

Fortunately, the Big Apple appears to be rebounding. Landlords are offering rents at more reasonable levels since they peaked between 2015 to 2017, more tourists are descending upon the city, and there is a renewed interest in shopping brick-and-mortar. Online sales have also calmed in the past year. As a result, designers and brands feel more confident about opening stores in real life.

“Madison from 57th to 72nd Streets has really come a long way in its recovery and stabilisation,” Gene Spiegelman, vice chairman and principal of Ripco Real Estate, told CPP Luxury. “During the worst part of the pandemic, 40 per cent of the spaces on Madison were available but the availability rate [meaning vacant spaces or stores looking to vacate] has since come down to under 20 per cent.”

Aside from the Whitney Museum of American Art, Madison Avenue is home to a host of jewellers, art galleries, and restaurants. New openings drumming up foot traffic on the strip include Elyse Walker, Versace, and Hermès. In addition, the swanky Giorgio Armani Residences are set to open on Madison this year, along with a new global headquarters for Sotheby’s and a Van Cleef & Arpels boutique.

One other major project of note is the redevelopment of the Plaza Athénée by Asset World Corp. The site, located right off Madison on 37 East 64th Street, has been closed since the pandemic but will reopen as the Plaza Athénée Nobu Hotel & Spa New York.

“We are below the peak of what rents were on Madison Avenue, and the spaces below 72nd Street are really starting to get filled out,” adds Matthew Bauer, president of the Madison Avenue business improvement district.

As for Fifth Avenue, Spiegelman says there is a group of available stores from 52nd up to 57th but things are slowly starting to pick up. Chopard, Swarovski, and Tiffany have all opened boutiques on the avenue. Prada also paid a staggering US$425 million for a five-level store at 724 Fifth Avenue. Other new shops expected to open on Fifth include Louis Vuitton and Chanel.

“Fifth Avenue has a lot of big spaces compared to Madison,” Spiegelman adds. “Rents on a square foot basis have come down but the aggregate is higher.”

Indeed, Fifth Avenue remains the world’s most expensive shopping street, with an average rent of US$2,000 per 0.09 square metre, according to Cushman & Wakefield’s annual report on global shopping districts. Madison might be a safer bet, then.

This story was first published on Robb Report USA