Who Opens a Mall During the Retail Apocalypse? Related Just Did.

By Carlo Versano

At the heart of the new Hudson Yards ー the glassy, sprawling mixed-use development on the far west side of Manhattan that has the distinction of being the most expensive real-estate development in U.S. history ー is the Vessel. A 150-foot-tall, made-for-Instagram piece of public art that resembles a bronzed honeycomb (or, perhaps less charitably, a giant shawarma), the Vessel has quickly become the focal point of the development and a lightning rod of criticism in its own right. But just past the Vessel's gleaming facade is what's perhaps Hudson Yard's biggest feat of all: a shopping mall.

Normally, the development of a multi-level mall in a city famous for its shopping wouldn't be news. But these aren't normal times for the retail industry.

Esty Ottensoser, retail specialist for the Related Companies, the developer of Hudson Yards, told Cheddar in an interview overlooking the mall's soaring atrium that Related had a specific recipe for success that it believes will allow The Shops and Restaurants at Hudson Yards, as it's officially known, to prosper even in a time of shuttering storefronts and ever-increasing competition from Amazon.

"Newness is critical," Ottensoser said. Related developed the shopping center with an idea of offering flexible lease terms for different retailers ー some shorter than customary, some longer than a traditional pop-up lease ー in order to keep the mix of brands on offer fresh.

Flexible leases allowed digitally native brands like Mack Weldon and Lovepop to test the waters with their first brick-and-mortar locations at Hudson Yards with terms that are long enough for them to "get comfortable" but not so long that they're locked into traditional contracts the way anchor tenants of the past have been.

"We wanted to give them a chance to really display and showcase what their brands are about," Ottensoser said.

So far ー the complex has been open for a few weeks ー it seems to be working. Shoppers are coming in to interact with direct-to-consumer companies like Rhone or b8ta "threaded" throughout the four floors, which they may have only been exposed to on social media, Ottensoser said. But they're sticking around.

"They're not just interacting with the brands," she said. "They're shopping."

The other piece of the Related strategy was to curate a mix of brands "from high to low." The first floor of the center features storefronts from Cartier and Dior. Upstairs, there's Zara and H&M outposts.

"We really curated the mix to include leading brands in each category," she said. "It's the way people are shopping and living today."

Hudson Yards-goers can find the latest fast fashion trends, or splurge on a gift, while having a sit-down meal at one of two dozen restaurants or a bite and a cocktail from the basement-level Spanish-themed food hall before snapping a selfie on The Vessel.

"That's the future," Ottensoser said.

For full interview click here.

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