Why Fashion Is a Property Developer’s Not-So-Secret Weapon

19/mar/2016 07.18.12 stylecaster Contatta l'autore

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A rendering of Neiman Marcus at Hudson Yards | Source: Courtesy

LONDON, United Kingdom — As the sun rises over London’s Haymarket on Saturday morning, there are many who hope the strip just south of Piccadilly Circus, home to an unusual mix of tenants, including a Planet Hollywood and Her Majesty’s Theatre, will be recast in a different light. That’s because it is the first day of public trading for the new London location of Comme des Garçons’ Dover Street Market, the high-concept, multi-brand fashion store, which moved into the 31,000-square-foot former Burberry headquarters at 18-22 Haymarket after a 200 percent rent increase at its original Mayfair location.

Indeed, Dover Street Market is known not only for its provocative retail mix, but also for the chutzpah — and financial necessity — that has spurred the store to pioneer and transform new areas of town not previously associated with luxury retail. When the original Dover Street Market opened on Dover Street in 2004, the street was considered a sleepy stretch on the backside of Mayfair, not far and yet worlds away from the traditional luxury shopping corridor of Bond Street. Today, Dover Street is home to fashion brands Victoria Beckham, Acne, Christian Louboutin and Jimmy Choo, as well as blue-chip art dealer David Zwirner’s London outpost. And, while Dover Street Market’s off-piste home in New York — on a strip of Murray Hill better known as a pit stop for hungry taxi drivers than a retail destination — is said to be facing challenges, there is some early evidence that the “Dover Street Market effect” has already taken hold in Haymarket.

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In late 2014, Dover Street Market — the brainchild of Comme des Garçons designer Rei Kawakubo and her partner and company president Adrian Joffe — signed a 20-year-lease for the new Haymarket space with Amsprop, the property company owned by Lord Alan Sugar, paying about £2.65 million ($3.8 million at current exchange rates) a year in rent, according to reports. News of the store’s move earned Haymarket a bit of buzz. No bad thing for The Crown Estate — a developer which oversees a collection of property belonging to the British monarch, but is run as an independent commercial business — which has made a £500 million ($725 million) investment in the surrounding neighbourhood in partnership with Oxford Properties. The Crown Estate’s new development, christened St. James’ Market, is just around the corner from Dover Street Market and is set to house a number of menswear-focused retailers (in keeping with the area’s traditional role as a hub for shirtmakers and bootmakers) includingDunhill, Turnbull & Asser and Swedish cycling brand Assos, along with an evolving roster of new restaurants. (It was recently announced that New York restaurant Aquavit would open an outpost here by the end of 2016.) “What will happen as a result is that you will get additional brands that want to sit alongside [Dover Street Market],” said James Cooksey, deputy head of urban and head of central London for The Crown Estate. “We’re going to embrace that opportunity and respond to the demand that comes as a result of that. But at the same time, we still want occupiers to be distinctive. What we’re not trying to do is replicate other streets.”

In fact, the anticipation around Dover Street Market’s opening — and its impact on the cache of the area — was so pronounced that Amsprop, which bought 18-22 Haymarket for £31 million ($45 million) from a Russian investor in 2013, promptly flipped the building, selling it for £65 million ($94 million) to a Qatari investor in July 2015, nearly a year before the store was set to actually open. "As soon he had us as a tenant, [Sugar] sold it within three months. I think it was part of his game plan. Very clever," Adrian Joffe told BoF.

 

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