Madison Avenue’s shopping sorrows

Iconic retail far from recovering former foot traffic

Madison Avenue may be losing its iconic status as it struggles to regain its former foot traffic from pre-pandemic days. (Getty)
Madison Avenue may be losing its iconic status as it struggles to regain its former foot traffic from pre-pandemic days. (Getty)

UPDATED, 10:11 a.m., August 24: New York is back. Madison Avenue retail, not so much.

The iconic shopping corridor, which stretches from 57th Street to 72nd Street and has historically commanded some of the priciest retail rents in the city, is only seeing 71 percent of its 2019 foot traffic, according to an estimate from location analytics firm Orbital Insight. By contrast, Upper Fifth Avenue is at 92 percent of its 2019 levels, according to the analysis, cited by Bloomberg.

Downtown Soho is seeing an even greater recovery, with foot traffic at 110 percent of its 2019 levels. Orbital Insight used mobile phone data and pedestrian-tracking satellites to come up with its numbers.

Madison Avenue’s seeing a blight of vacant storefronts, with the area’s availability rate of 39 percent the highest in Manhattan, according to Cushman & Wakefield figures. High-profile casualties include Barneys New York and luxury handbag retailer Anya Hindmarch, whose window displays a sign that “It’s time to move on.” In November, the area’s Business Improvement District created a template for short-time licenses in an attempt to boost leasing activity.

Other companies, however, aren’t giving up on Madison Avenue. In January 2020, Fendi and Berluti inked leases at Vornado Realty Trust’s 595 Madison Avenue after Coach abruptly left. Hermes, Giorgio Armani and Brunello Cucinelli are also planting a flag in or increasing their footprints in the area.

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Last August, three properties on Madison Avenue totaling 340,000 square feet hit the market, the first time in decades that so much real estate in the area had been up for grabs. They sold to Swiss luxury clothier Akris for a combined $45 million, or about $1,340 per foot, considerably lower than the prices neighboring buildings commanded at their peak in 2014, according to the Wall Street Journal. This January, jeweler Graff bought 712 Madison Avenue from SL Green Realty for $43 million, having purchased the adjacent 710 Madison for $66.5 million from Raymond Gindi’s ASG Equities two years earlier.

[Bloomberg] — Holden Walter-Warner

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified when the Madison Avenue buildings hit the market. It was August 2020.