Monday, January 25, 2010

Would The Last Boutique on Oak Street Please Turn Off The Lights?

Another Oak Street boutique is taking advantage of the crummy economy to re-tool.

The Yves Saint Laurent store at 51 East Oak Street closed last Friday (January 23, 2010).  Word is that the interior is being completely renovated.  The new design is based on plans from Paris and is intended to upgrade the Chicago location to flagship status.

When will that be?  At this time it's anyone's guess.  Estimates are running two to three months.

Also closed to renovation is the Kate Spade store across the street at 56 East Oak.  It is expected to reopen by the end of the month.

For those of you keeping score at home, the following spaces are closed on Oak Street:

  • 25 East Oak Street (Formerly Barneys, soon to be Hermes)
  • 51 East Oak Street (YSL, reopening in a few months)
  • 56 East Oak Street (Kate Space, reopening sooner)
  • 58 East Oak Street (The dead Esquire Theater)
  • 68 East Oak Street (Formerly Citibank)
  • 72 East Oak Street (Formerly G'Bani)
  • 112 East Oak Street (Soon to be Marilyn Miglin)
A block over, 52 East Walton Street is now empty.  It was Sur La Table, and there was word that some kind of bakery or cupcake shop or something was looking at the space, but the signs on the windows state the space is still available, so it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
The good news is that 102 East Oak Street is no longer shuttered.  It's now the home of Colletti.  It used to be Atlas Galleries.

How can shops like YSL and Spade afford to shutter their doors when consumer spending is down?  The logic is that it's better to close when spending is down than when spending is high.

Anyone who follows the retail press knows that high-end shoppers are mostly sticking to New York, London, Dubai (yes, still Dubai), and the major Asian markets these days.

We keep hearing from people who work in Chicago's retail sector that the few tourists who choose to make Chicago their destination continue to balk at the city's high sales tax.  By one estimate, half of the high-end north side shoppers who inquire about the sales tax end up walking out without buying anything.

It's not that they can't afford 10.25%, it's just that no one likes getting gouged.  And those who can afford it wonder why they should pay an extra 10.25% at Chicago boutiques when they can get the same item in other cities for less.

And the math doesn't just work for the well-to-do.  I know ordinary people in Chicago who fly to Minneapolis to do their back-to-school shopping at the Mall of America.  With zero sales tax on clothing, and a much lower sales tax than Chicago on everything else, they end up saving enough money to more than pay for the plane ticket.

Gotta get me some kids.


  1. The sales tax in the city is insane, I really don't know how much longer things can remain like this before people start fleeing cook county en mass. If anything, they should be lowering the sales tax to encourage spending in the city. To offset the loss in tax revenue, they should open up new revenue streams, such as on the street food vendors for one (taxes/permits/jobs). I'm not an economist, but to me, it seems that people spend more the lower taxes are, i.e. you make more money from taxes when they are lower than when they are higher. I hope someone comes along with some fresh, honest and good ideas for the city.

  2. I'm never down on Oak Street...I didn't know all these places were closed. How strange. Certainly Chicago never really had a strong "fashion" stance anyway, that plus the sales tax and I don't see a lot of really high end shopping for petes sakes.


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