By  on August 17, 2010

Las Vegas’ newest shopping emporium, The Crystals at CityCenter, is getting another injection of luxury.

Even as the sector and the city are challenged by economic uncertainty, Donna Karan, Stella McCartney and Yves Saint Laurent will open stores this fall at the 500,000-square-foot shopping center. They will join openings before yearend that include Prada, Gucci, Harry Winston, Emilio Pucci and Balenciaga, among others.

“We take pride that we did The Crystals in the worst economic time, but we didn’t deviate from the mission….Las Vegas didn’t need another mall, so we didn’t do that,” said Farid Matraki, vice president and general manager of The Crystals. “We created an experience.”

The almost $9 billion CityCenter, a joint venture of MGM Mirage and Dubai World subsidiary Infinity World Development Corp. that covers 67 acres and has four hotels and a two-tower condominium complex in addition to The Crystals, underscores the troubles of the gambling and entertainment mecca. It has not been profitable since opening in December, with an operating loss of $120 million in the second quarter ended June 30, according to the MGM earnings report. Its equity value sank to $2.65 billion from $4.88 billion in October.

“If anybody tells you that we are doing fantastic, they are lying,” Matraki said. “We are doing very good. Compared to sales per square foot at other stores in Las Vegas, we are doing good. Some stores are outperforming other stores in Las Vegas. At the end of the day, this building has only been open eight months and some of these retailers in other locations have been there 10 years.”

Matraki said he is encouraged by luxury retailers sticking with their plans for The Crystals and by sales of top-tier merchandise, such as Louis Vuitton’s ready-to-wear and limited edition pieces, at retailers throughout The Crystals.

Donna Karan’s first Las Vegas location will be a 3,000-square-foot store housing the brand’s complete selection of rtw, shoes, cashmere, evening, accessories, intimates, hosiery and fragrances. The 4,000-square-foot YSL store will carry women’s and men’s rtw and accessories. McCartney’s boutique will feature rtw, bags, shoes, lingerie, fragrance, sunglasses and the Adidas collection.

“[Retailers at The Crystals] are selling merchandise here that they won’t sell elsewhere,” Matraki said. “That tells me that the caliber of the client that comes here is a better caliber of client.”

The enduring lure of Las Vegas as an upscale shopping destination is reflected in the roster of tenants at The Crystals, including Tom Ford, Dior, Tiffany & Co., Roberto Cavalli, Versace, Bulgari, Cartier, Hermès, Carolina Herrera, Mikimoto, Ermenegildo Zegna, Kiton and Van Cleef & Arpels.

According to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, the number of visitors in the first six months of the year increased 1.9 percent to just more than 18.5 million compared with the same period last year, and gaming revenue for the Strip alone gained 2.6 percent to $2.8 billion.

After the latest slate of retail launches, Matraki estimated The Crystals would be 86 percent occupied, but he said 6 to 7 percent of what’s left is third-floor space scheduled for future development that might not take place for another year. Of the existing space not currently leased, he said there are four to five stores “being negotiated as we speak.”

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