Union Square: Retailers dropping anchor in ‘Flagship Central’

Dept. 1908 is Paragon Sports’ new footwear experience, boasting 2,500 curated styles of footwear in a fresh, new space inside Paragon. The name is a nod to Paragon’s heritage and as a family-owned and operated, innovative specialty store since 1908.

Although New York City’s retail sector has experienced rising vacancies and rent drops in the last year, Union Square has remained stable and continues to rise as one of the city’s hottest shopping destinations.

With more than 40 new businesses arriving in Union Square, the district’s vacancy rate remains at a low 1.7 percent.

“Union Square’s variety of retailers has remained very diverse with each new opening this year,” said Kriss Casanova, director of economic development for the Union Square Partnership. “The district’s mix of fashion, fitness, beauty and services is very robust, and our vibrant business community has continued to draw foot traffic.”

As shoppers continue to flock to Union Square, new retailers are looking to the district as the best place to establish flagships and maiden concepts in New York.

“Union Square’s confluence of residents, students, shoppers and employees makes the district a unique point of entry for a company breaking into the New York market,” said William Abramson, co-chairperson of the Union Square Partnership LLC and director of Brokerage at Buchbinder & Warren Realty Group. “In particular, the growing number of tech and creative companies in the area that appeal to a younger workforce has had a significant impact on the mix of fashion, fitness and beauty retailers that are attracted to Union Square.”

Several fashion brands established New York City outposts on the west side of the square this year. Renowned fashion rental startup Rent the Runway relocated to 15th St. and upgraded to a larger space, unveiling its first flagship. Activewear brand Lou & Grey opened its first New York City location at 138 Fifth Ave. in the fall. And further down the avenue, internationally renowned sailing supply company North Sails also made its New York City debut.

New eateries also continue to dominate the district landscape, as one-of-a-kind concepts look to Union Square to establish their first locations in the city. Newcomers included Sushi sensation Sugarfish, Washington, D.C.,-based Mediterranean eatery Cava Grill, and Make Sandwich, a new concept from the founders of Bark Hot Dogs and Melt Shop. Union Square even saw an international opening this year as well, in Japanese udon concept TsuruTonTan’s stateside debut on 16th St. last winter.

Union Square’s well-established health and wellness sector recently welcomed new additions, as well. New businesses such as Dept. 1908 Footwear at Paragon Sports and Jordan 23 joined Union Square’s lineup of fitness retailers. Known as the epicenter of the city’s health and wellness scene, Union Square now houses more than 100 innovative fitness studios, gyms, athleisure retailers, healthy eateries and juice shops.

To complement the abundance of health and wellness retailers, beauty brands have found a natural home in Union Square, as well, in recent years. Last winter, NYX Cosmetics opened its flagship Manhattan store at 41 Union Square West, joining beauty retailers MAC, The Red Door, Sephora, Fresh and Blue Mercury and strengthening the district’s position as a beauty destination.

“New York is the ultimate beauty mecca with a very discerning customer, which means the store had to feel special and unique,” said Scott Friedman, president of NYX Professional Makeup. “Through exclusive, interactive areas within our largest footprint yet, customers will be treated to a customized beauty shopping experience unlike any other.”

“It’s an exciting time to be a business in Union Square,” Casanova said. “With a diverse mix of existing businesses and an abundance of new concepts, our vibrant community is continuing to see foot traffic as more and more people are spending time in the district.”

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