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Market continues to be driven by savvy shoppers.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of the economy and, this year, the National Retail Federation forecasts a 4.8% increase in retail sales.

Even though buyers are exhibiting more cautious spending habits, high consumer confidence levels are palpable, not only across Manhattan, but also nationwide.

Traditionally, January was an unimportant month for retail reporting, but as gift cards have become more popular, its significance has surged.

Retailers do not include gift cards in their tallies until they are redeemed, and most recipients of holiday gift cards use them after the New Year. As a result, January retail sales reports are closely monitored as an extension of the holiday shopping season.

I am happy to report that gift card purchases for the month of January totaled $27.8 billion, up 50% from this time last year.

Luxury retailers will enjoy continued success in 2007. Globally, luxury sales are up 9%, but many experts predict that in the U.S., they will rise an unprecedented 11%. Tiffany & Co. alone has gained 7% through January. If you play the market, perhaps you should consider dipping into the luxury brands. Nordstrom shares have risen 21%, LVMH boasts more than 8% gains, while Coach is up 6.6%.

In light of such impressive numbers, it is no surprise that these stores have scheduled a bevy of new openings:

The Financial District is finally flourishing as an area of both work and play, and is quickly becoming the new corridor for luxury.

Sephora will debut at 150 Broadway at Liberty, while Hermes plans to open on the corner of Broad and Exchange Streets, at 15 Broad Street.

Tiffany's impending entrance will cement the area's reputation as a luxury destination.

Luxury retailers are also finding success in unexpected markets across the U.S.

Made confident by an uninterrupted sales boom that has lasted since 2001, they are expanding beyond their usual metropolitan locales.

Tiffany & Co. and Louis Vuitton opened their doors to discerning shoppers in Nashville, Tennessee last summer.

Stronger than expected profits from affluent Tennessee shoppers has led both stores to branch out into Tucson, Arizona and Austin, Texas. Coach will increase its U.S. stores by 20% while Nordstrom has projected eight new openings by 2008. There will even be a Barney's New York in Dallas, Texas!

The hospitality sector will be front and center in 2007, as 30 new hotels are scheduled to open. These fabulous new sites will arrive just in time to accommodate the ever-increasing number of tourists who come to Manhattan each year.

Some highly anticipated openings are The Gansevoort Hotel on Park Avenue and 29th Street and a new Hyatt condo-hotel at 485 Fifth Avenue.

Fourteen new hotels are planned for Lower Manhattan, all of which will undoubtedly book up quickly, especially when the World Trade Center Memorial and Museum opens.

The neighborhood currently hosts about 2,200 rooms, and that figure is expected to double in the next two years.

Lower Manhattan's hotel boom will result in a wide range of hotel options, from lower range lodgings to four-star establishments.

Four Points SoHo Village, The Downtown Hotel, W Hotel and Hampton Inn are all set to open by 2008.

I predict that momentum will continue to build in 2007, propelling us through a robust year for retail leasing and sales.

Savvy shoppers will become even more conscious of their position as market drivers, and retailers will cater to their audiences by unveiling new stores, each more spectacular than the first.

By Faith Hope Consolo, Chairman, Retail Leasing and Sales Division Prudential Douglas Elliman
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Title Annotation:Commercial Sales & Leasing
Comment:Market continues to be driven by savvy shoppers.(Commercial Sales & Leasing)
Author:Consolo, Faith Hope
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Feb 21, 2007
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