DDi - June 2012 - (Page 56)
56 | Shopping with Paco
View to the future
t was a sunny, unseasonably warm Saturday morning in New York. I walked from my West Village home down along the Hudson River Park to Battery Park in Lower Manhattan. A warm day at the end of winter brings out both bodies and flesh. Like the Strand in Los Angeles and the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, there are prime spots on the Earth for peoplewatching. This is one of them. The cross-section of faces is evidence of the genetic mix that characterizes our shrinking planet; unlike the global meeting points of the Old World, like Istanbul and Jerusalem, the mix is benign and voluntary. It is less about the evidence of history and issues of rape and concubinage, and more about human curiosity that has lead people out of their villages and has given them the confidence to make commitments to others who look different than they do. But, what makes Battery Park and Lower Manhattan so strange on this warm, early spring day is who isn’t there. Mainstream America is missing. The obese two-thirds of America aren’t there. Neither are the khakis and “alligator over the heart” crowd. Almost no one is chewing gum. No Crocs or low-riders, and few tats or piercings. You don’t see or hear the slouching young girls gasping “OMG,” or interjecting “like” in every sentence. What you do see are the young, the fit and the foreigners. The family groups may be Asian or Russian; many of them are three-generational. The nuclear families can be multiracial, but with very few exceptions, it is the man pushing the baby stroller. The couples are either wooing or working out, with little space in between. There are aging lions with their young trophy mates who left wife No. 1 in Westchester; and then there’s Wall Street’s version of the gay couple, which is about being lean and clean. Battery Park was constructed on a landfill. This new urban community of office towers and residential high rises has some of the best new public spaces in New York. The range of homes varies from townhouses and penthouses to hotel rooms and studios. It is a short walk to Wall Street and thus appeals to 80-hours-a-week financial junkies that make New York the 24-hour business center it is. The esplanade along the river, with its views of the harbor, the Statue of Liberty and emerging skyline of Jersey City, is a delightful place to sit, walk, run, bike, skate or scamper. There are a few up-market eateries, and no hot-dog vendors. Art is scattered along the pathways. There is a tasteful memorial commemorating the Irish Potato Famine and the migration it engendered. With all of these lively elements, the missing piece is retail. Across West Street, which feels like an arterial version of the Hudson River, and up the block is a Bed Bath & Beyond, as well as a Whole Foods Market. Given the concentration of wealth, this absence adds to the elegance and serenity. In modern parlance, it is an “all” that’s missing the mall. Yes, there is a Cineplex—but you have to look for it. There is a deli, a takeout Chinese restaurant, a drugstore and a few empty boutiques. Most groceries are ordered online and delivered. In this world of 1-percenters, recreational shopping happens online at odd hours. Apparel is acquired in disciplined trips or on vacation. Time is at a premium, and a scenic walk or run on the river beats a stroll down a retail concourse. Let’s change channels and visit Nouvelle at Natick, the new condominium complex attached to the Natick Mall outside of Boston. It boasts five-star
hotel services and the liberty to shop at Neiman Marcus in your PJs and slippers if you wanted to. As our economy recovers, multi-family dwellings are leading us out of the housing meltdown. Baby Boomers, who have lived in the Boston suburbs and now want to retire or scale back, can stay in their familiar communities. Trading in the house for a luxury apartment 10 minutes away is a much less wrenching transition. The shopper profile for this type of complex are the younger, hardworking couples who don’t have time for shoveling snow, much less keeping gardens. They like not having to drive to a PF Chang’s, knowing that they can have a better time out when they can walk home and not risk a DUI. As census data shows us, a clear percentage of married Americans are either not having children, or are making the choice to delay starting families. Many work on Edge City corporate campuses that abound in Natick and Framingham, the town next door.
Housing and retail have a long history and a complex relationship.
While condos at Battery Park and at Nouvelle at Natick may look and feel the same on the inside, the lifestyles each represent could not be more different. One of the new tools merchants and marketers have are census-data-crunching services. The service we use is offered through Cushman & Wakefield’s Retail Consulting practice. It gives us a very accurate picture of lifestyle profiles based on a specific point on the map. Whether designing rollout strategies or sharpening merchandising mixes, or deciphering why one location is doing better or worse than another, it is a very useful modern dipstick.
—Paco Underhill is the founder of Envirosell and author of the books “Why We Buy,” “Call of the Mall” and “What Women Want.” He shares his retail and consumer insights with DDI in a bi-issue column.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of DDi - June 2012
DDi - June 2012
Table of Contents
From the Editor
From the Show Director
Behind the Scenes: Anthropologie windows
Channel Focus: Lifestyle Store
Shopping with Paco
DDi - June 2012