Now that we’re about ten minutes past digestion of Thanksgiving turkey, it’s the holiday season, which means it’s time to talk about the Christmas stores in prime locations in midtown.
Within a few blocks just north of Times Square on both 7th Avenue and Broadway, there are not one, not two, not three, but four Christmas stores operated by the company Christmas and City. (There’s also another one in Little Italy.)
The company says that one of those is a popup. The others are permanent, and they have been around since 2017, according to lease information from CoStar, a commercial real estate research firm.
The most nostalgic and holiday elvish among us may get a kick out of the feel-good holiday merchandise, the Christmas music and cheer. With all the options you can’t really miss the stores if you’re walking into or out of Times Square.
But the stores are not exactly centers of wintry imagination and creativity. Basically, there are tree ornaments. Four solid walls of tree ornaments. There are different versions of the Empire State Building, and many iterations of faces on balls outfitted with paraphernalia from New York sports teams. There are cookie-cutter Game of Thrones characters and Downton Abbey denizens, which can be among the cheaper of the ornaments at around $10 each.
Spend some time walking approximately 30 seconds from one store to another and it’ll be like Christmas morning if you can find something that’s not an ornament. There are scattered lawn decorations and stockings and nutcrackers and an animatronic figure decorating holiday cupcakes, which does not appear to be for sale. Good luck finding a dreidel.
The major Christmas innovation is that the store will personalize an item for you for free. It’s unclear if that applies to the sodas which are waiting in small soda refrigerators, not Christmas-themed other than the fact that they are Coca-Cola red.
On a recent visit to the outlet off 52nd Street, one employee said that tourists come in year-round for the merchandise. She gave a knowing Christmas smile in her red t-shirt.
Clearly the company thinks it can make an economic go of it with all the neighboring stores, popup and permanent. Retail in Manhattan seems to be in a moment of change. A Real Estate Board of New York report last week found that the majority of popular retail corridors in the borough saw year-over-year decreases for ground floor retail asking rents per square foot.
The report calls this a natural correction, and says that owners are accepting more short-term deals and trying new concepts for the retail market — like popups.
Robin Abrams, who worked on the report and is the vice chairman of the real estate company Compass, says that businesses are sometimes using brick and mortar presences to drive online sales. Maybe you walk by and remember the brand and then do your Christmas shopping with them online.
Meanwhile, even some famous storefronts are finding it difficult to survive in the new environment, with Lord & Taylor’s flagship and its famous holiday windows closing after the season.
Apparently surviving: the Christmas stores.
Too bad the current economic strictures don’t allow literally anything else to flourish in the heart of Manhattan. Instead of maybe a supermarket, or a non-chain store, or a library, or a concert venue, or a nonprofit center, or a health facility, or cheap housing, or even (gasp) public space, we have the Christmas stores.
Enjoy the ornaments.