The fact Zara has opted to open a “global flagship” at a street number more usually identified as the mark of the beast seems unlikely to have any impact on a project that has all the hallmarks of a job well done.
Address 666 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan, New York
Number of floors Three
Retail space 32,000 sq ft
This three-floor, 32,000 sq ft store is on the site of the former NBA store in Manhattan and it would be hard to find a more central location on the island.
It also happens to be a large shop on a thoroughfare that remains the world’s most expensive when it comes to choosing where to set up shop. For this reason alone, almost every retailer that chooses to establish itself on ‘Fifth’ strives to ensure this is the best that can be done in terms of the appearance of the store and the ranges that are on offer.
Zara unveiled its sleek new store on March 15 and it deserves its place in the area.
01 - VISUAL MERCHANDISING
A modernist store deserves slick VM and Zara does not disappoint. On the first floor, home to menswear, garments are displayed in glass-sided perimeter wardrobes and mid-shop cabinets with LED lights lining their interior edges. Cabinets and wardrobes have grey metal frames, striking a masculine note. There is a more open feel to womenswear on the ground floor and about half the basement, with grey and white tables and perimeter equipment. The interior’s upscale feel is reinforced by strips across the top of the perimeter wardrobes that hide the tops of the hangers. The kids’ department is remarkable for the simple manner in which adult displays have been scaled down.
02 - CONCEPT
A store of clean lines and long, white and grey vistas. The lighting is concealed, for the most part, and the interior works by having a series of catwalks off which white cube-like merchandise departments have been created. The effect is the sense of being almost in the lobby of a modern hotel. The staircase from ground to first is noteworthy for its 1930s art deco feel. If Zara can export this elsewhere, it will put it in the mid-market’s vanguard.
03 - SERVICE
Drapers was among a select group to be given a preview and to attend the in-store party on the evening prior to the doors being flung open. The staff were friendly, well-groomed and shopping was a pleasure, but as this was a private viewing, it was hard to say how the store would perform when the Fifth Avenue hordes descended. For this reason, a default score for good service has been given. If the service is anything like that experience ahead of opening, shoppers will be well treated.
04 - PRODUCT
The thing about Zara is that it really is the great classless act that makes you look better than the price tag would seem to indicate. That said, if you’re male and want to spend more, the Fifth Avenue store is the one to visit as it has a capsule collection where the prices are considerably higher than the Zara norm. For women, pastels and sorbet colours are on show across the store. All in all, this is a very strong offer and would have scored nine had it not been for the uninspiring men’s footwear range.
05 - COMPETITION
Fifth Avenue is red of tooth and claw when it comes to competition, but Zara’s prices make an awful lot of what is on show rather pale by comparison. This is a fashion offer that can take on all-comers – including the nearby and recently opened Uniqlo store (also a “global flagship”) which is enormous, but which does major on a fair bit of SKU repetition across the store in order to fill the space. If shoppers want to pay more for fashion, then Manhattan can help, but when it comes to counting the nickels and dimes, this is a great place to head for.
06 - VERDICT - AN UPTOWN WINNER
Who knows what makes a “global flagship” different from an everyday one? There probably isn’t much more than a cigarette paper between the two store types. This really is a very good shop and one that should be on the list when visiting the Big Apple. Zara has taken a location that wouldn’t have been on any list for many, reconfigured the space and emerged with a real showstopper. It has also been sufficiently savvy to realise that uptown Fifth Avenue shopping may be largely about designer names but to succeed you also need ranges that shine. Seek it out.