New York City retailers feeling the crisis

February 4, 2009 4:41:23 PM PST
Like so many New York City retailers, Kim Brinster is at the brink. Forced to close the Oscar Wilde book store, the first and only gay and lesbian book store in Manhattan, Kim's passion and livelihood is falling victim to a worsening economy.

"I can't say this store has ever made a profit, but it's been a fine juggling act. You can usually keep all the balls in the air, but right now all the balls are on the floor," she said.

Retail analysts predict that 220,000 retail businesses will close this year, nationwide.

"In a consumer downturn, you go away. That's what's going on," retail consultant Howard Davidowitz said.

Davidowitz believes many others, including big name stores, will struggle.

"Fortunoff's was bought by a real estate company. Loads of debt. That's why they're in a state of collapse," he explained. "Lord and Taylor is very vulnerable because they are filled with debt."

Even on Madison Avenue, there is a new sign of the times. There are between 12 and 18 retail spaces for rent. They haven't seen that since the 70's.

Many are not closing the door, but downsizing to survive.

"The key is to retain their presence. Even sometimes they move to a side street just off Madison, and that still gives them the sheik address and the presence," real estate broker Faith Hope Consolo said.

Consolo, who heads the retail division of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, works with landlords and retailers to strike a reasonable deal.

"Get the rents at a really reasonable level, hold them for a few years until, we hope, the market rebounds," she said.

Until then, analysts believe retail businesses will have a long struggle to survive.


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