New York remains retail’s proving ground

New York has been among the more cautious states in reopening its doors and removing restrictions.

Not long ago, New York was ranked the third-strongest economy in the United States, trailing only behind Texas and California. Looking at its gross domestic product as a measure of economic health, New York was almost at $1.8 trillion during that time, most of which came from New York City. Yet after the pandemic struck, its GDP decreased 5.9% last year, a larger decline than the total U.S. GDP experienced. This was compounded by New York’s jobless rate, which was among the highest in the country.

Strict lockdown protocols that resulted in prolonged closures of many of the state’s service-driven industries were a chief reason behind the severity of the impact. What’s more, offices employing hundreds and thousands closed (and many remain so) while tourism and business travel came to a halt — all of which directly affected the business climate in the state and Manhattan in particular.

New York has been among the more cautious states in reopening its doors and removing restrictions. As of June, the U.S. economy was reportedly 93% back to normal, but New York was lagging. All eyes are on the pace of retail stores and restaurants reopening as key metrics of future economic health. A large part of the recovery will depend on how quickly — or slowly — offices bring employees back. Despite these obstacles and reported concerns, in the past six months a surprising number of companies have been opening new stores in the state.

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New York contributed more than 8% to the nation’s overall GDP pre-COVID. Its GDP was on par with Italy.

A 21,000-sq.-ft. store dedicated to everything Harry Potter has opened in the Flatiron District in Manhattan. The three-story Harry Potter New York Store features 15 different themed areas, some including original props from the franchise movies. Created to be an immersive experience, the store features exclusive products, interactive elements and digital technologies — including integration with the Harry Potter Fan Club app. The store also has a Butterbeer Bar that serves Butterbeer, Butterbeer ice cream, bottled Butterbeer and other indulgences. Harry Potter New York has a virtual queuing system in place, so that when customers visit the store, they scan a QR code to join a virtual queue and return when notified.

Google is opening its first store this summer in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. The move to brick-and-mortar retail comes on the heels of the company’s acquisition of Fitbit. Located in the same building that houses its New York City offices, the store will feature such Google-made products as Nest, Pixel phones, Fitbits and Pixelbooks. Tech support will also be onsite, and plans call for how-to workshops to be offered as well.

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This year also saw several other noteworthy retail openings in New York, including crystal manufacturer Swarovski’s Instant Wonder store in Soho, value home décor retailer At Home’s first store in the borough of Queens and Lego‘s new flagship store in Rockefeller Center.