By  on May 20, 2013

Despite Spain’s economicabyss, key fashion retailers here say Barcelona’s tourists are saving the day.

“Barcelona is the most visited city in Spain with tourists from all over the world, which fuels [retail] growth. Thanks to the ever-growing number of visitors, Loewe’s business last year at the Paseo de Gràcia flagship yielded the highest growth of its 170-store global network,” said Loewe chief executive officer Lisa Montague.

She attributed the positive results to the store’s renovation by Peter Marino and “Spain’s best artisans, who discovered and restored original stuccos and decorative Art Nouveau finishes. Loewe is very proud to occupy one of the city’s most emblematic [Modernist] buildings, and the Paseo de Gràcia is [a landmark].”

Expanded to 10,000 square feet, the three-level luxury leather-goods store — the world’s largest Loewe unit — re-opened in March 2012. It houses the brand’s multiple collections and the first Amazona Atelier, a bespoke corner.

Santa Eulalia ceo Luis Sans said, “Barcelona is insulated from the Spanish meltdown, like a bubble in the middle of a desert. It’s protected by international tourism.”

The Catalan capital accounts for half of Spain’s total non-European Union purchases, he said, and “Paseo de Gràcia is the most pedestrian-trafficked street in Spain. It’s human and intimate with a little bit of everything, including high-profile locations and major tourist attractions like [Antonio Gaudi-designed buildings] La Pedrera and Casa Battló — and it’s the country’s third most expensive street,” he added.

In general, retailers reported a sales ratio of about 20 percent local and 80 percent tourists — mainly Russians; Americans from cruise ships, asBarcelona is one of Europe’s leading cruise harbors; Chinese, and Japanese.

A spokesman for Bottega Veneta said sales are driven by Russian and Asian tourists. The Italian leather brand opened a 2,153-square-foot store at the top of Paseo de Gràcia one year ago.

On average, rent for a 200-square-meter (2,153 square foot) locale is 2,400 to 3,000 euros a square meter annually, which translates to $287 to $359 a square foot, depending on location and facade, said local real estate broker Mónica Manguillot.

“A few properties on Paseo de Gràcia dropped rents about 5 percent in 2009 due to the crisis, but prices are currently stable,” she said. “There is a lot of demand here and high-profile retail activity, with some closures and new brands coming in, but not much is available.”

Two recent entries are H&M’s newest chain & Other Stories, which houses a full range of women’s ready-to-wear, accessories and beauty products. “We are very happy to open our Barcelona store in this magnificent location,” said Samuel Fernstein, head of the brand, at last month’s inaugural. “We want to get to know our Spanish customers — and to be inspired by their fashion vision.”

In February, Mango rolled out its 16th point of sale in Barcelona, a two-story locale at 36 Paseo de Gràcia.

“With the new store and 7.5 million tourists in the city, we are reinforcing our worldwide visibility,” said Mango expansion director Daniel López.


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