Sarah Feldberg
Sarah Feldberg

Celine, Hermes, Bulgari. They’re all international brands built on reputations for making clothes and accessories coveted by the well-heeled, and in Las Vegas, they’re all under the same roof at Crystals.

The mammoth Strip-front shopping center, designed by Daniel Libeskind, bears an obvious resemblance to its namesake, with sleek metallic facets that catch the sun during daytime and are lit dramatically at night.

Inside, the names above the doorways read like the makings of a fantasy closet. Where most malls have a handful of high-end boutiques sprinkled among midlevel and budget retailers, the directory at Crystals reads like a who’s who of luxury, from Tom Ford to Valentino to Tourbillon.

But can a shopping center completely dedicated to the upper echelon be successful? Six years after the official end of the Great Recession, how is luxury doing in Las Vegas?

Quite well, said Crystals Senior Vice President and General Manager Farid Matraki. “We’ve never had one month where we did worse than the month before or the year before. Every quarter we have a record quarter.”

Matraki has been part of the team at the CityCenter retail development since 2007, well before the airy venue opened in December 2009. He was there through construction and leasing, when the economy was at its nadir and the Las Vegas Strip was a relative ghost town.

“In 2008 it was really, really a tough time,” Matraki recalled. “We had some brands that were nonluxury chains, and they offered us a decent amount of rent and they offered to rent a decent amount of space. I said, ‘No. Absolutely not.’”

Recent years have seen a rise in retail spending in Las Vegas. According to a report commissioned by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the average expenditure in 2014 among visitors who reported shopping during their trip was $246.12, up significantly from $192.34 in 2010, though down slightly from a recent peak in 2014.

North on Las Vegas Boulevard, the shopping Esplanades at Wynn and Encore boast brands like Alexander McQueen, Givenchy and Chanel, and Senior Vice President of Retail Hedy Woodrow said business is good.

“Luxury is definitely back,” she said. “We’ve had tremendous growth. [In 2014,] we actually beat the numbers from prerecession.”

Woodrow said there’s no price resistance for the Wynn/Encore retail customer. The average dollar sale at Chanel is $8,000. At footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood’s boutique, the average sale moves not one but three or four pairs of shoes. The average dollar sale from watch company Patek Philippe is a whopping $35,000.

And the shops are continuing to evolve. A 7,000-square-foot Prada flagship store will open Aug. 28. Menswear brand Brioni is coming to the Wynn Esplanade, and Montclair will arrive in October. New shop Wynn Collection debuted last week, stocking Philip Treacy hats popular with British royals and Analeena handbags that can cost up to $40,000.

In the last year, Woodrow said, she’s seen spending from domestic customers pick up, with guests coming from California and Texas to shop on the Strip.

At Crystals, Matraki has noted the same trend. When CityCenter opened in a still-bleak domestic economic environment, Chinese business helped buoy the shops through the recovery. With Chinese customer numbers down, Matraki said, domestic business is now much stronger — and while Americans may not have the buying power of the Asian whales, they’re likely to visit Las Vegas more frequently.

“The customer who buys a $1 million ring doesn’t come back every year,” Matraki said. “The customer who buys a $10,000 ring comes back every year.”

And as they continue to come back — luxury tourists turning their private jets and their bank accounts toward Las Vegas — Matraki said brand demand to get in front of them is also growing.

When Crystals opened the waitlist for tenants had two names on it. Today, there are 18 high-end designers and brands eager to take their place among the Harry Winstons and Christian Diors. Current tenants are also asking for bigger footprints, and one prospective tenant was willing to wait three years for a spot in the building.

“Forum [Shops at Caesars Palace] is like that and Wynn is like that, too,” Matraki said. “There is just no more space.”

He added that there is still room for bigger sales and better numbers and seemed confident that that’s the direction luxury retail in Las Vegas is heading — and that once again, the next quarter will be Crystals best quarter yet.

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