Upper West Side Businesses Target Fashion Week Wallets
By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — The Upper West Side's first-ever Fashion Week added a dash of glamour to the staid blocks around Lincoln Center last fall, but many retailers didn't hear their cash registers ringing up any more sales because of it.
Six months later, neighborhood businesses are trying a new strategy: they're giving the expected 100,000 attendees and workers what they want— a cheap lunch and plenty to drink.
Monica Blum, president of the Lincoln Square BID, said restaurants near Lincoln Center served up plenty of lunches during September's Fashion Week, but many were empty at dinner time.
"Restaurants seemed to do well at lunch, but not as well in the evening because people went back to their own neighborhoods after the shows," Blum said.
With that in mind, the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District has been working with 20 restaurants to create a discount deal called "Fashion Plate Prix Fixe," with some haute couture-themed menu items such as "Risotto for Models."
Some establishments are also offering discounts for the production crews that work behind the scenes setting up and taking down Fashion Week.
The discount program, called Crew Cuts, gives crew members a 6 to 20 percent discount on "quick and affordable" food at 'wichcraft, Alan’s Market Place, Breadsoul Café and other fast-service eateries.
The Shops at Columbus Circle are also planning a week of festivities around Fashion Week. The Lincoln Square BID will once again post signs with the slogan "Broadway is our Catwalk" outside Lincoln Center to encourage Fashion Week attendees to shop nearby.
Fashion Week is a business trip for most involved, says Libby Langsdorf, spokeswoman for the New York City Economic Development Corporation. With more than 200 runway shows on the schedule, there is a lot of running around and few breaks, she says.
"A lot of people enjoy it for the scene, but when it’s all said and done, the designers are there to show their clothes," Langsdorf said.
That means there's little time for shopping, and local retailers' experiences last fall support that statement.
Neighborhood boutiques said they saw little or no increase in sales during Fashion Week in September 2010, when the marathon of designer shows moved for the first time from Bryant Park to Lincoln Center.
"There was a lot of hype, everybody was talking about it, but we didn't really see anything," said Chuck Sternfeld, owner of the Kangol hat boutique on Columbus Avenue and West 69th Street, a short walk from Lincoln Center.
Fashion Week generates $233 million in citywide visitor spending on hotels, restaurants, taxis and stores, according to a study by the city's Economic Development Corporation.
But Upper West Side stores like Kangol didn't see their sales receipts budge during last fall's Fashion Week, Sternfeld said. The store planned to stay open until 11 p.m. on Fashion's Night Out, a night of shopping and partying during Fashion Week, but there were so few customers he closed at 9:30 p.m.
Employees at Columbus Avenue's Ugg store, Reiss London women's clothing, Lancome make-up and L'Occitane skincare, Space NK and other retailers all said their stores saw no increase in business last fall.
Employees at Paige Denim said the store was busy that week, but it was hard to say whether the uptick was related to Fashion Week or because customers were discovering the store, which opened last June.
One exception to the reports of flat Fashion Week financials: Wine 67, a liquor store on the corner of West 68th and Columbus. Manager Evelyn Wing said the booze shop did brisk business selling all types of wine and spirits.
"There were a lot more people coming in, but they were buying single bottles," Wing said. "They would come in in between shows."