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NYC suddenly in retail vanguard

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Unlikely as it sounds, New York City is quickly emerging as a retail Mecca, the scene of much that is new and exciting and innovative in the retail marketplace.

That’s right. New York — scene of hourly subway snafus, constant traffic snarls, mind-numbing construction on every street, and all manner of inconveniences and holdups — is getting a reputation of a different and more positive kind: the place to go to study the latest and most exciting retail happenings.

For openers, journey to Brooklyn to sample the newest iteration of Wegmans, an upstate New York grocer that is arguably the best this country has to offer in food retailing. The 75,000-square-foot emporium, Wegmans’ debut in New York City, is state-of-the-art supermarket retailing, offering its customers all manner of food and food-related products served up by a staff of dedicated, efficient, professional staffers who understand what serving the customer is supposed to mean, at prices that, by New York standards, boggle the mind.

It’s difficult to point out what’s best about the new Wegmans. Perhaps it’s the assortment, perhaps the eating-in options, perhaps the ambiance, perhaps the very fact that it exists in Brooklyn, former home of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Suffice it to say that the good, gray New York Times saw fit to profile the new supermarket on its front pages, those usually reserved for wars, impeachments, and all manner of national and international tragedies.

Brooklyn not your cup of tea? You might, then, want to risk a subway ride to 57th Street and Broadway to sample the just-opened Nordstrom, a sprawling seven-story emporium that represents the best and the brightest in department and specialty store retailing. Understanding the fact that department store retailing is not necessarily our cup of tea, we nonetheless appreciate the retailing art as practiced and perfected by a professional. And no more professional retailer exists than this Seattle-based company that has redefined the art and science of retailing, transforming it into an experience that is welcomed and embraced by shoppers who long ago learned too shun this overly hyped and underperforming department stores that once set the example for others, that once was what every trade class aspired to but few managed to ­duplicate.

Do department stores bore you? Then confine your visit to the new Nordstrom to those categories with which we’re all familiar: beauty care, apparel, in-house food (it’s all about food at retail these days) and service. That’s Nordstrom’s signature ingredient, making the customer feel like a guest by treating the customer as a guest.

Exiting Nordstrom, you might want to journey two blocks north to Central Park for a quick bite of lunch, or a quick trip to the zoo. Then it’s back on the subway or one of New York’s famous (or infamous) taxicabs for the trip to Hudson Yards, the city’s newest shopping mall. Forget the negative publicity that accompanies its opening earlier this year, Hudson Yards boasts some of the newest and most innovative departures in retailing today. Several national retailers have chosen Hudson Yards for their New York City debut, yet specialty retailing is what the new mall is mostly about.

It’s also about (guess what) food. If that hot dog in Central Park didn’t satisfy you (why should you be different), choose one of the many eateries at Hudson Yards. You won’t be (too) disappointed.

After leaving Hudson Yards, feel free to explore the Big Apple. Try one of the scaled-down Target stores (Target has targeted New York City as one of its core markets, but what, after all, does Target know). Or sample some of Amazon’s (you remember Amazon) brick-and-mortar offerings (this might be a good time to learn to live with Amazon).

For nostalgia’s sake, journey back uptown to Madison Avenue and 60th Street to witness the demise of a former New York institution: Barney’s, currently offering nostalgic shoppers products and prices that are more nearly normal than they once were.

Finally, if it’s off-peak hour, and the subways might be operating at somewhere near efficiency, you might explore the whole borough of Manhattan, still the most exciting (and challenging?) strip in the United States, especially when it comes to people — and retail — watching. Up and down its streets and avenues (the even streets are the eastbound streets, the westbound streets are odd) are all manner of specialty retailers trying to establish a foothold in this retailing mecca.

As an intrepid practitioner of the retail art you’ll surely find something to arouse your imagination or, more productive still, your retailing genes.

Finally, have a good time. This is, after all, still the Big Apple.


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