Luxury Retail Is Bleak on Bleeker Street

The New York Times: “How Bleecker went from quintessential Greenwich Village street, with shops like Condomania and Rebel Rebel Records, to a destination for Black Card-wielding 1-percenters, to its current iteration as a luxury blightscape is a classic New York story. It involves a visionary businessman, a hit HBO show, an Afghan immigrant, a star architect, European tourists, aggressive landlords and, above all, the relentless commercial churn of Manhattan.”

“In 1996, Magnolia Bakery opened at 401 Bleecker … It was just another local business, like the bodega operated by Turks or the Greek diner Manatus. But on July 9, 2000, Magnolia was featured on ‘Sex and the City’ … The 30 seconds of Carrie Bradshaw and her friend Miranda eating cupcakes outside the bakery were all it took to turn the street … The Magnolia crowd in part convinced Robert Duffy, then the president and vice chairman of Marc Jacobs, that the company should open a store nearby … the arrival of the first Marc Jacobs store, with its trendsetting clothes and clientele of fashion editors and celebrities like Sofia Coppola, was the tipping point.”

“And then? Blowback. While quirky independent stores couldn’t afford the new Bleecker, it became apparent over time that neither could the corporate brands that had remade the street. An open secret among retailers had it that Bleecker Street was a fancy Potemkin village, empty of customers. Celebrities shopped there because they wouldn’t be bothered … The original Marc Jacobs store on Bleecker that started the boom” is now empty, “its windows blacked out … Marjorie Reitman, who has lived in the Village for 43 years …has an idea for that space and the other empty stores that dot Bleecker Street like missing teeth in a very expensive mouth.” Her thought: “They should all be pot shops. Seriously. I’m not kidding. I can’t imagine what else could go in and pay the rent.”


$13 Burgers Slows Demand for Fast Food

The Wall Street Journal “As the number of outlets serving ‘better’ burgers—featuring nontraditional toppings and artisan buns—has skyrocketed over the past decade, so has the average burger tab, turning some customers off … Lunch traffic to quick-serve hamburger restaurants fell 5% last year—the biggest year-over-year decline that market-research firm NPD Group Inc. has recorded … The average lunch burger check—including fries and a beverage—has risen 22% since the financial crisis to $5.83, with a 4% increase last year alone, according to NPD.”

“With so much competition and only so many ways to differentiate a burger, upstarts have been coming out with evermore gourmet ingredients, such as Wagyu beef, roasted garlic aioli and truffled arugula, which have raised the bar for burgers overall—and their price tag …they can beef up profits by charging extra for additional toppings … A basic hamburger at (Fatburger) starts at $5.94, but after adding bacon and chili, it is $8.14. With fries and a drink, the combo totals $13.37.”

McDonald’s recently adopted a back-to-basics approach after years of chasing health-minded customers with products such as salads, sandwich wraps and fruit smoothies. It had neglected its burgers and recently found that only one in five millennials had ever tried its signature Big Mac … The burger giant has been trying to improve the quality of its burgers by adjusting temperatures and cook times to deliver hotter, fresher burgers. Next year, it plans to make its Quarter Pounders with fresh, instead of frozen, beef. It is also in the process of rolling out higher-end, customizable burgers from a ‘Signature Crafted’ menu to compete with the ‘better’ burger places, but at a much lower price.”