The coronavirus pandemic has battered retailers, and department stores have been far from immune. Neiman Marcus announced plans last year to shutter 22 locations in the wake of the pandemic, including a number of stores in New York City, while long-standing department store Lord & Taylor devastated shoppers with its intent to close all 24 of its stores.
And to add insult to injury, Century 21, a famed institution, announced plans to get rid of all of its stores as part of its bankruptcy filing last year, including its well-known Downtown Manhattan location, which already had to overcome the damage caused by the September 11 attacks back in 2001.
But now, there's better news emerging from Century 21. The retailer has just announced that it intends to return to New York City in some capacity. And while the specifics of its reopening plans have yet to be finalized, it's great news for a city that could really use a lifeline right about now.
Fueling New York City's revival
Department store closures are bad news for malls and shopping centers alike. These large tenants are commonly referred to as anchors for a reason -- they take up large amounts of space and serve as a steady revenue stream for mall operators and commercial landlords.
It's too soon to know if Century 21 plans to take up residence inside malls, or whether it will open stand-alone, off-mall locations. But either way, the fact that it's making plans to come back to New York City is reason to give area real estate investors hope.
New York City's real estate market has taken a major beating in the course of the pandemic. Residents have left for the suburbs, office buildings have seen a dearth in occupancy and leasing activity, and retailers have been shuttering left and right. The return of Century 21 doesn't just help a sole commercial landlord or property management company generate rental revenue -- it gives people a reason to flock to the city at a time when many of New York's beloved amenities are largely off-limits due to the ongoing health crisis. If Century 21 opens even a single location, it could mean added revenue for nearby restaurants, convenience stores, and even hotels.
Naturally, there are many questions about Century 21's revival. How many stores will come back into the mix? Will it expand its selection or continue to serve up the mishmash of discounted designer clothing shoppers crave? And will it partner with other brands for some store-in-store offerings -- a model that's been picking up steam over the past year in particular?
Right now, there are a lot of details yet to be ironed out, but at a time when so many department stores have bitten the dust, New York City is apt to be more than happy to have Century 21 back. Incidentally, shoppers are likely to feel similarly. But whether that enthusiasm is enough to grow Century 21 back into a sustainable chain is yet to be determined.