By  on October 23, 2009

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, motivated by the success of Fashion’s Night Out and its collaborative spirit, is continuing to press the cause of retailing in Manhattan.

The mayor has been quietly staging group meetings with retail chief executive officers, and now has sent out invitations for a third, less discrete gathering: a big dinner at Macy’s Herald Square on Jan. 11 to be hosted by Terry Lundgren, chairman, ceo and president of Macy’s Inc.; Deputy Mayor Robert C. Lieber, and possibly the mayor himself. Fifty to 60 ceo’s are expected. The dinner will take place the same week as the annual National Retail Federation convention at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, which is being held Jan. 10 to 13.

Fashion’s Night Out, held Sept. 10, proved successful at producing strong traffic in stores across the five boroughs, though it was less explosive generating commerce. However, retailers believe the event helped make people feel less guilty about being in stores during the recession.

Retailers are very concerned about the upcoming holiday season, which is expected to be weak as unemployment continues to rise. However, some retail executives recently have seen a leveling off of negative sales trends in certain categories. Discounters and off-pricers continue to outperform department stores and luxury chains.

Bloomberg’s meetings are aimed at developing strategies to spur shopping by locals and out-of-towners, and to figure out what can be done to make the city more attractive to tourists. According to retail sources, anything from quality of life issues, such as street vendors, street fairs and parades, to incentives for shopping, like possibly giving away Broadway tickets as rewards for high levels of shopping expenditures, are up for discussion. Tie-ins with entertainers are on the agenda as well, according to sources.

Bloomberg’s first retail conclave was held June 30 at Gracie Mansion. It was called “Invitation to Gracie Mansion: the Future of Retail.” Another one was held Sept. 9 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which was called “Deputy Mayor Lieber — Workshop on Potential Game Changers for NYC.”

“We have assembled some of the leaders of the industry to talk about the future of New York City and are continuing to discuss this with them,” said a spokesman for the Mayor’s office. Asked when some strategies might be determined, the spokesman replied, “I wouldn’t want to put a timetable on them. It’s really an ongoing dialogue. These are discussions about the future of the industry and what if anything the city can do to help.”

With Bloomberg up for reelection, the upcoming dinner at Macy’s has begun generating buzz, but not purely because of politics. It’s scheduled for the same evening as the annual Financo Inc. retail industry event, which has long been a hot ticket. Despite the scheduling conflict, Financo will hold its traditional panel discussion with industry leaders at 4 p.m. and the ensuing cocktail hour. However, the dinner portion of the evening has been scrapped.

“You can’t fight city hall. Isn’t that the argument?” said Gilbert Harrison, chairman of Financo. “But I believe Mayor Bloomberg and Bob Lieber have absolutely the right attitude in terms of reaching out to executives on how to make New York a better place. Retailing is critical to the New York economy, and getting both residents and people from out of the city, state and country to shop in New York is something that is desperately needed.”

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