The State of the Store: A Taste of Shopping Uptown and Down.

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Looking south from 52nd and Fifth Avenue.

New York City has joined the rest of the State and is now in Phase Two Reopening. Suffice to say, we are looking forward to Phase Three coming soon. For now, retail stores are allowed to open — and they must follow all government guidelines, which they are doing. Walking into a store after not having been in one for over three months is an interesting experience. Liberating is one thought that comes to mind. Safe, too, especially when you see all the hand sanitizers and masked shoppers and employees keeping their (social) distance. Everyone I have come across has been polite and respectful, unlike some shopping experiences in supermarkets. The sales associates all seemed very happy to be back in sparkling clean stores full of spring and summer merchandise.

Not every store is open yet, but many are. Some stores are by appointment only, and all stores are monitoring how many shoppers they let in. Shopping online is a useful tool for some things, but nothing beats seeing what you are buying with your own eyes. And trying it on, especially clothing and shoes, which need to fit.

What struck me as interesting is that it is now early July and the stores are filled with Spring and Summer clothing. They couldn’t sell it during the pandemic, and factories around the globe that make the clothing were closed for several months. Normally, the stores would now be full of Fall merchandise. This has always struck me as somewhat silly as so many of us shop for things as we need them, and don’t want to buy Fall clothing until it is actually Fall.  Some of the bigger stores are offering good sales, and might bring fall clothing in soon. But maybe, just maybe, designers and stores will learn from this tragic period and reset their selling seasons so if you want a bathing suit in August you can find one.

Nike — Closed until August.

It is a bit disappointing to see some major brands and luxury stores still boarded up. Boarded up stores are an eyesore, and hopefully the owners will understand and appreciate this — and take down those boards. I was curious as to why Nike chose not to open up until some time in late August. A guard outside their Soho superstore told me that the store was so big that Nike needed months to get the store open again.

Interesting, seeing as Nike is hugely profitable, and that larger stores like Nordstrom, Saks and Bloomingdale’s all are open. I do hope Nike is paying their employees since they won’t open up shop.

The stores are uncrowded, and some of that is due to how many people have moved out to their country homes. Our New York City stores, at all price levels, need customers to be able to stay in business.

While it is wonderful to walk around Soho and  Fifth and Madison Avenues on uncrowded streets, and to actually be able appreciate the beautiful architecture around us, we do need our tourists back. Last year alone, tourists spent more than $44 billion dollars. And if you add in money spent at hotels and restaurants, the sum is much, much bigger. Our city and state sorely need the taxes tourists pay, and our businesses need the revenue to stay in business.

Shopping for bags on Saks ground floor.

Saks Fifth Avenue has been open since Phase 2 took place. All safety precautions are being followed. Because the store is so large, it makes distancing easy. The sale is on at Saks, and many things — like handbags, that are rarely marked down — now are on sale.

Shoppers on Saks Fifth Avenue’s 5th floor.

I ended up buying a few pieces, as did these shoppers. My sales person said she was very happy to be back at work. Shoppers use the escalators, not the elevators, to go from floor to floor.

Shoppers in the Vuitton boutique at Saks.

There were shoppers all over the floor looking for shoes, trying on shoes, and buying shoes. As per guidelines, if an item is tried on and not purchased, it is taken off the selling floor for a day or so and sanitized before being put back on the floor.

Trying on Louboutins at Saks.

At first it seemed a bit surreal to be back inside a store, but then it became a very freeing experience. These women were having a great time trying on their new shoes.

Saks Fifth Avenue, Fifth Avenue between 49th Street and 50th Street.

The Cartier Flagship on Fifth.

Being on Fifth Avenue is a pleasure, with landmarked buildings, and all sorts of stores. While New York needs its tourists, it is also wonderful to have the Avenue all to ourselves. Cartier, too, has reopened.

Welcome Back Cartier.

Cartier is going the appointment only route. It certainly makes sense for them.

Cartier, Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street

A/X on Fifth Avenue.

The Armani Exchange and Armani further up Fifth were among the first stores to open.

The Doors are wide open.

They keep their doors open, and a 40% off sale certainly doesn’t hurt.

Armani Exchange, Fifth Avenue and 51st Street

The line at Zara Fifth Avenue.

Zara lets a limited number of people in the store at one time. This store is a big one with high ceilings, but being extra cautious is important to them. The woman at the front of the line had just come from Louis Vuitton, and was cross-shopping.

A peek inside Zara Fifth Avenue.

You can see that the store is not crowded. And the Welcome Back sign is a nice touch.

Shoppers leaving Zara Fifth Avenue.

You enter from one set of doors and exit from another.

Zara, Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street

The line at Zara in Soho.

Zara in Soho is another very large store, and they too are letting limited number of people into the store. People don’t seem to mind waiting, judging by the number of Zara shopping bags I saw in Soho.

Zara, Broadway Between Spring Street and Broome Street.

A view of Prada’s main floor.

Prada is open, and no appointments are needed. Accessories are on the main floor.

Prada’s second floor.

Women’s clothing is on the second floor. One of the sales associates said that since a lot of their clientele is out in the country, they have been sending many boxes of clothing on consignment to their customers.

Prada women’s shoes.

Most of the shoes for sale were spring and summer shoes, with a wall of sneakers and lots of sandals.

Prada, Fifth Avenue between 57th Street and 56th Street

Fifth Avenue shines.

Dolce Gabbana has a huge store on Fifth. Again, you do not need to make an appointment, and the staff is thrilled to help.

Summer for sale at Dolce & Gabbana Fifth Avenue.

Some of the clothing on the second floor is on sale. The merchandise is all spring-summer and is wear-now at its best.

Dolce & Gabbana, Fifth Avenue between 55th Street and 56th Street

Shoppers in front of Gucci, carrying Dior shopping bags.

These masked friends had been shopping at Dior.

Gucci Fifth Avenue.

Gucci was one of the first stores to open up. Sometimes there are lines to get in, but no appointment is needed.

Gucci shoes and accessories.

There were people shopping and trying on shoes in the Fifth Avenue store.

Gucci, Fifth Avenue and 56th Street

Shoppers in Gucci Soho.

The store in Soho has a completely different vibe than Fifth Avenue. A sales associate explained to me that pieces of clothing and all accessories were new. When Soho was looted, the Gucci store was cleaned out. Even the basement. The looters went after the hottest brands. Somebody, somewhere is selling the looted merchandise. One can only hope they get caught. In any case, customers are in the store now.

Hand sanitizer waiting outside the Gucci Soho dressing room.

The Gucci Soho dressing rooms are unique. And they have placed hand sanitizer all around the store, just like the one on the table pictured here.

Gucci, Wooster Street Between Broome Street and Spring Street

Bulgari is open.

If you are looking for some baubles, Bulgari is back. Appointments are required.

Bulgari, Fifth Avenue at 57th Street

Shoppers entering Vuitton Fifth Avenue.

There were people going in and out of Vuitton. They are keeping a strict limit on the number of people in the store, and it is best to make an appointment. That said, I saw plenty of Vuitton bags being carried by men and women.

Louis Vuitton, Fifth Avenue at 57th Street

Waiting to get into Vuitton Soho.

Even when you have an appointment you may need to wait a little bit  to get into the Soho Vuitton store. The shoppers already inside were spending more time than was expected.

Outside the Vuitton store in Soho.

Again, we miss our tourists, but the streets of Soho are so pretty right now. And the architecture is magnificent. That’s why the neighborhood was landmarked back in the ’70s.

Louis Vuitton, Greene Street and Prince Street

Waiting in line at Chanel.

Chanel is taking appointments for shopping. As you can see, many people are eager to shop.

Getting the Chanel windows ready.

A few days before Chanel opened, the staff was putting the windows together and restocking the store.

Chanel, 57th Street between Fifth and Madison

Miu Miu 57th Street.

Miu Miu is currently offering shopping by appointment only, unlike its sister Prada. There are many cool new looks to chose from.

Miu Miu, 57th Street between Fifth and Madison

Burberry is back.

The sign in the Burberry door is to the point. And correct. Pretty much every store has signs like this to reassure their customers.

Burberry, 57th Street between Fifth and Madison

Dior 57th St. Women’s waits to welcome you.

Dior Women’s and Men’s is open, too. You don’t need to book an appointment, but they are making sure that the store is not too crowed. Dior is popular with men and women, and I saw Dior shopping bags all over town.

A shopper leaving Dior 57th Street with her purchases.

Young and not so young, everyone loves Dior.

Dior Men and Women, 57th Street between Fifth and Madison

A customer at the Dior Soho Women’s boutique.

The Soho Dior store is also open. While not as large as the 57th Street store, it has a good assortment of clothing and accessories.

The Dior Men’s store in Soho.

The Dior Men’s store will hopefully be open again soon. This boutique just opened in early spring. Kim Jones, designer of the men’s collection, has produced covetable clothing and accessories that had young people packing the store before the lock down. This store too was completely looted, and parts of the store need to be rebuilt, according to the gentleman in front of the store.

Dior Women’s and Men’s, Greene Street between Prince and Spring Street

The main floor accessories at Nordstrom.

Across town, Nordstrom opened up when Phase 2 began. They store is filled with lots of current fashion, and you can find some things on sale. An associate told me that since Nordstrom owns Jeffrey in MePa downtown, the Jeffrey inventory is being moved here to be put on sale as Nordstrom has decided to close the the entire group of stores.

Shoppers in Nordstrom.

Nordstrom  is well loved because of its big shoe and accessory assortments, at all price points.

Customers in Nordstrom.

Customers were also shopping in the jewelry and cosmetics department.

Nordstrom, 57th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway

Bloomingdale’s Soho.

Bloomingdale’s is open on 59th Street and their Broadway location is too. They have left part of their street art boards up as a reminder of what we are still living through. The Soho store is more boutique like than 59th Street, but it is a great place to shop.

Buying some jeans at Bloomingdale’s.

The store is primarily contemporary price points. The denim assortment is terrific.

The Bloomingdale’s cosmetics department.

The cosmetic department is also quite large and filled with large and smaller more niche brands. Customers were buying in the new normal.

Bloomingdale’s, Broadway between  Spring Street and Broome Street

Gerard Darel on Spring Street.

Gerard Darel is a French brand. Many of the smaller European boutiques in Soho are not open yet, but this boutique is. The clothing is casual chic at its best.

Customers inside the boutique.

There were customers in the store, and many of the items were on sale, and new arrivals are coming in daily. There are plenty of looks to brighten your summer.

Gerard Darel, Spring Street Between Wooster Street and Broome Street

Free People, open and welcoming.

Free People has a large store on West Broadway. The clothing is young and very relaxed.

Casual dressing in Free People Soho.

Along with dresses, jeans and tops, they also have an interesting selection of workout clothes. If you have been living in lounge wear, this might be a good place to upgrade your look. They also have stores in the Flatiron District and in Rockefeller Plaza.

Free People, West Broadway between Prince Street and Spring Street

Shopping at Chloe is Soho.

The only Chloe boutique in the city is in Soho. The store is open and full of their cool bags, shoes and clothing. No reservations needed.

Inside the Chloe Soho boutique.

The clothing and some jewelry is located at the back of the store, and the staff is so glad to be back.

Chloe, Green Street between Prince Street and Spring Street

A Soho Street vendor.

Even the Soho street vendors are showing their wares again. This gentleman is across the street from the Apple store on Prince Street. He said he wasn’t sure how many customers would be around, but he missed the city streets and his customers. He is hopeful and just glad to be back in business.

Barbara Hodes is the owner of NYC Private Shopping Tour, offering customized tours in New York and Brooklyn

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