Tysons Galleria a hot draw for luxury retailers

By Danielle Douglas
Monday, August 23, 2010

Gucci has launched a store at Tysons Galleria, rounding out the lengthening list of new luxury retailers at the McLean mall. Targeting high-end tenants has been a priority at the Galleria for the past decade, but with confidence returning to the luxury retail market, the effort is producing faster results these days.

Just last week, Eli Tahari signed on to open a 2,500-square-foot store in 2011, which will be the women's wear designer's first in the Washington area. French designer Anne Fontaine debuted her first shop in the area in July. Other retailers, such as Hugo Boss, have expanded existing space at the mall. Michael Kors is also in the midst of retrofitting space for its new store at the mall, which should be ready by October.

"Retailers have improved their margins and are ready to do deals again," said Stephanie Brager, vice president of asset management at General Growth Properties, which owns the Galleria. Leases for three additional luxury retailers are in the works. Brager said he could not divulge the names until the agreements were signed, but added that they are all specialized boutiques.

The luxury retail market has fared well in recent years, though the initial blow of the collapse on Wall Street took some of the air out of the market. In June, sales at luxury chains rose 8.8 percent from a year earlier, beating the recession-proof discount segment, which tallied a 2 percent increase in revenue, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.

"When our CEO happened to be in D.C., he went to Tysons and just fell in love with the property," said Christina Ramirez, a spokeswoman for Anne Fontaine. "It is the premier luxury destination in his eyes. There is a lot of energy at the mall that is synonymous with luxury and fashion."

Gucci's new digs take up roughly 4,770 square feet. The store will be the Italian designer's fourth in the Washington region; other stores are in Chevy Chase, Vienna and Queenstown on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Located in the heart of the coming redevelopment of Tysons Corner, the Galleria is well positioned to benefit from what promises to be a boom in population and business. Brager said she is in talks with a few other retailers, namely restaurants, that find the build-out appealing.

"All of the growth and development that is coming to the market is really attractive. The denser the market gets, it does certainly benefit the retail market," she said. "But for luxury retailers, Tysons Galleria has such a strong brand within that community that it stands on its own merits."

Brager said the Galleria is considering an expansion to capitalize on the redevelopment but that nothing is definite. "With the Metro coming to town, Fairfax County has increased the density opportunities for us. So it is something that we are currently reviewing," she said.

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