Could Manhattan's Department Store Boom Happen in Richmond?



New York City always runs against the grain, even when it comes to department stores.

Does that hold promise for Richmond?

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Manhattan is seeing a boom in new department stores. Some 650,000 square feet of new store space is slated to open at five outlets by 2018.

The expansions are happening as Cincinnati-based Macy’s is closing many stores nationally, including two in the Richmond area. Stores at Regency Square Mall and Virginia Center Commons will be shuttered.

In Manhattan, new department stores such as Saks Men’s Brookfield, Neiman Marcus and Barneys are planned away on the west side and downtown away from the usual midtown locations.

“You’ve got millennials and empty nesters there,” says John Jay Schwartz, managing director of Have Site Will Travel commercial real estate in Richmond.

Could such a shift happen in Richmond, especially with wealthier people moving into the city?

“I’m not saying it wouldn’t but Richmond just doesn’t have the concentration yet,” Schwartz says. “Washington and Chicago are getting there.”

Popular spots for new residences are on Broad Street, downtown, Shockoe Slip and the Bottom, Church Hill and the Fan District, among others.

But at the moment, the biggest concentration of people is at Virginia Commonwealth University. And, as Schwartz notes, “Students aren’t department store shoppers.”

Maybe someday.

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