What’s really happening to retail?

From The Atlantic:

What’s really going on with retail in New York City?

According to some, the sky is falling. As one representative of the real-estate company Douglas Elliman told The New York Times20 percent of Manhattan’s retail space is vacant. A separate survey from Morgan Stanley determined that a similar share of street-level retail space along the borough’s most high-end corridors is “available,” meaning either vacant or seeking a new lease-holder. It’s as if the global capital of capital is becoming a rich ghost town, as I recently wrote.

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Or maybe this is an invented crisis. That 20 percent statistic? It’s a complete fabrication, according to Rebecca Baird-Remba, a reporter for the Commercial Observer. Alternative estimates from the city and other real estate companies peg the city’s vacancy rate at 10 percent or even lower.

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There are a couple of reasons for this retail Rashomon. First, Manhattan store vacancies aren’t like GDP; there isn’t one official and well-regarded measure. Instead, there are several means of quantifying the city’s retail health, which makes it easy for partisans to pick and choose their favorite stats to fit a narrative…

Continue reading at The Atlantic


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