By  on February 26, 2008

NEW YORK — The developer of The Shops at Columbus Circle at Time Warner Center wants to put to rest one enduring myth: that vertical retail doesn't work in Manhattan.

Related Urban Development, a unit of Related Cos., has the numbers to prove its point. Year-to-date sales are up 15 percent over the same year-ago period and sales per square foot at the center average $1,500. Luxury merchandising units, The Shops at Columbus Circle's reimagined version of the pop-up store, averaged per square foot sales of $3,300.

"So many people in New York misread the enormous value of being in a climate-controlled environment," said Kenneth Himmel, president and chief executive officer of Related Urban. He credits some of the center's success to the strategy of anchoring The Shops' upper level with high-end restaurants and putting a Whole Foods market on the lower level. "We're being approached by and talking to a much more luxurious type of tenant coming off Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue," Himmel said. "I couldn't get them to budge and come over the West Side."

Webber Hudson, executive vice president of Related Urban, said several retailers operate their top-performing units chainwide at The Shops. "J. Crew's most productive store on a per square foot basis" is here, he said. "They're bursting at the seams and I'm working on a deal now to expand them. Sephora's business is up strong and we're talking about getting them more square footage. Eileen Fisher's store is the No. 1 unit in the chain. A|X Armani Exchange is enjoying strong increases and Tourneau's business is huge. People are still buying expensive watches."

In fact, Hudson said The Shops' performance is all the more remarkable in light of the difficult economic environment. He said foreign tourism increased 25 percent, while the local customer base continues to grow. Restaurants also racked up big numbers. Bouchon will do $6 million in 2,000 square feet of space and Landmark and Porter House each do $1 million a month in sales volume.

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