European fashion retailers flocking to Staten Island

The United States has always taken its fashion cues from Europe, carrying the finest lux brands from Italy, France and Spain in high-end stores.


The United States has always taken its fashion cues from Europe, carrying the finest lux brands from Italy, France and Spain in high-end stores.

But there's more to European retail than expensive goods from luxury designers, like Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Louis Vuitton and Versace.

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With three large-scale Staten Island retail projects in different stages of development, European retailers are leasing space here to compete in the New York marketplace, which is considered to be the nation's fashion capital.

And there are affordable European retailers that offer trendy apparel and other items, which have become increasingly appealing in the United States. For example, Primark, which is opening in the Staten Island Mall, New Springville, in March, will offer trendy fashions for very low prices.

"New York is the shopping capital of the world," said James Prendamano, managing director of the St. George-based Casandra Properties who is working on leasing for the Empire Outlets, which is slated to open in 2017 on the St. George waterfront.

"We see 60 million tourists per year and we've got 15 million people within the 45-minute drive time to the North Shore. We certainly have the base and demographics," he added.

In some cases, European retailers are looking for an opportunity to enter the market, said Prendamano, who is also leasing space in Riverside Galleria, a retail development being planned for Charleston.

"Quite frankly, the cost to penetrate the market is significantly lower here (than in Europe). Our demographic is strong out here, so retailers -- both domestic and international -- have woken up to this in the last few years," he said.

Staten Island is also a more cost effective alternative to Manhattan, where rents are nearly quadruple for commercial space, said Prendamano.

"They (international retailers) are seeing Staten Island as an opportunity to penetrate a market that they were previously unable to penetrate, and at a fraction of the cost of what you'd pay per square foot in Manhattan," he said.

"As more retailers find success here and there's more reporting data, we take more of the questions out of the equation for them, and they see an opportunity to take a shot," added Prendamano.


Some say that the fact that European retailers are eyeing Staten Island is directly tied to the tourism the New York Wheel and outlets are expected to bring.

"We are breaking through ceilings as far as the number of people coming to New York City. People are coming from overseas and the European retailers want to be here," said Joseph Ferrara, principal of BFC Partners.


But European retailers say it's important to do the homework before opening in a new market. Primark principals say it's important to offer the types of merchandise that Americans -- and in this case, specifically New Yorkers -- will want to spend their money.

"We trade in 11 countries, and every country has got differences (in product demand). In terms of the U.S., whether we are on High Street in Boston or in a mall in Pennsylvania, we get differences," said Tim Kelley, director of communications for Primark, which is opening 10 stores in the United States as part of a sublease agreement with Sears.

Primark was especially interested in branching out into the New York marketplace by leasing the second floor of Sears in the Staten Island Mall.

"Staten Island is a great place, and the Staten Island Mall in particular is a great place, where everyone on the Island shops. It is a hub for the Island. We are delighted to be there," said Jose Luis Martinez De Larramendi, president of Primark U.S. Corp.

"People in the U.S. and on Staten Island are looking for fashion and affordable fashion, and we have that," he added.

European retailers opening here also give Staten Island a taste of international fashion apparel, said Kelley.

"The selection of merchandise that customers on Staten Island will buy in March is the same range of merchandise they can buy in Dublin, Ireland. We adjust the mix of merchandise to suit the local market," said Kelly.

"Our ladies collection brings the best of European fashion to the U.S.," said Kelly.


In addition to Primark, a British retailer, Superdry, recently opened in the Mall. The international brand boasts a wide selection of apparel, from T-shirts to outerwear, with an urban edge offered at affordable prices. The brand is favored by many international celebrities, including Idris Elba, David Beckham, Zac Efron and Helena Christensen.

Zara, a retailer from Spain, is among the first companies to sign on to open as part of the Mall's expansion. The company plans to open a 30,000-square-foot space in the new section of the Mall that is expected to be complete in fall 2018.

"I think overall we have to continue to be different from everything else. There is so much retail out there in general," said James Easley, Mall general manager.

"Some (retailers) will go and the rest will stay. I think the ones that are new, innovative and first to market are the ones who will succeed," he added.

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