Union Square’s central location has made the neighborhood a natural retail hub. Over the last year, the area has drawn high numbers of visitors from all over the city. With a steady rise in district popularity, retailers big and small are seeking new homes in the square.
In 2014, pedestrian traffic in and around Union Square hit an all-time high, with nearly 350,000 daily visitors and more than 35 million annual subway riders. Over all, the area has experienced an 11 percent increase in daily visitors since 2012, according to the Union Square Partnership’s 2014 Pedestrian Activity Report.
“The area’s increased foot traffic is definitely spurring commercial activity we’re seeing,” said Scott Hobbs, deputy director of the Union Square Partnership business improvement district. “More and more people are spending time here, and it’s building the neighborhood’s reputation as a shopping destination.”
A variety of fashion-focused brands have leased space in the expanding retail district over the last year. One of the biggest additions is Banana Republic’s new flagship at the corner of Fifth Ave. and 18th St. The almost 30,000-square-foot store showcases both men’s and women’s styles, replacing the separate gender-specific locations that once stood two blocks south of the new flagship.
Brands such as Aritzia, Bonobos and the popular dress-service start-up Rent the Runway have also taken spaces in the area. In close proximity to a number of fashion brands, M·A·C Cosmetics debuted its Union Square location at 853 Broadway, occupying a two-level storefront along 14th St., and gaining 25 feet of frontage along the pedestrian-heavy walkway.
International fashion houses like H&M, Zara, Coach, GAP and Express have all completed extensive renovations in their Union Square locations.
Hamptons-based brand Homenature has leased a 6,000-square-foot location on 18th St., offering a variety of mid-century upholstery, case goods, bedding, rugs and accessories. Chilewich chose Union Square for its first brick-and-mortar location in New York City. Known for its chic tablemats and interior textiles, the company manufactures a wide range of products using its proprietary textiles, woven exclusively in the U.S. Chilewich opened at 23 E. 20th St. in December.
Health-conscious eateries also continue to dominate with the addition of two Be Juice bars, the area’s second Liquiteria, farm-to-table restaurants Darrow’s and Irvington, and fresh-ingredient-focused Fresh & Co and Roast Kitchen.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Union Square,” Hobbs said. “The variety of people and businesses is so unique.”