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Going for Mass as Well as Class at Trump Tower

NEW YORK - Without dulling its glittery image, Trump Tower has embraced a new layer of mass appeal.<BR><BR>It's all part of an evolving picture of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in which Bugs Bunny has become as prominent as Tiffany's.<BR><BR>The...

NEW YORK – Without dulling its glittery image, Trump Tower has embraced a new layer of mass appeal.

It’s all part of an evolving picture of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in which Bugs Bunny has become as prominent as Tiffany’s.

The changes at Trump Tower reflect a drive to capture more of the tourist trade and bring the price level of its retail occupants down a notch.

In the past three years, several national chains, including Cache, Coach, I.B. Diffusion and Footloose, as well as Rigorno sunglasses, Dooney & Bourke leather and accessories, and V2 by Versace, the designer’s secondary men’s wear line, have joined the 40-tenant roster of retailers.

In mid-May, Tower Records is scheduled to open an 8,000-square-foot store on the lower level, in a space that has been vacant for three years.

The Limited, which operates Abercrombie & Fitch on two levels in Trump Tower, is reportedly negotiating a shop for its Bath & Body Works division, possibly in one of the Tower’s few remaining vacancies, a 3,000-square-foot spot on the fourth floor.

In addition, Caswell-Massey, a fragrance firm, is reportedly interested in one of the smaller spaces.

Further, there has been intense speculation about Nike coveting the space now occupied by Galeries Lafayette.

“We really had too much that was too highbrow,” said Donald Trump this week. “Now we have more of a mix that starts in the middle range and goes to the very top, as opposed to only the very top of the line.

“There’s been some turnover,” Trump continued. “There always will be in retail. It’s taken us a period of time to straighten the balance out, but we’re getting it.”

Ferragamo, the luxury Italian shoe, accessory and ready-to-wear firm, is scheduled to open at the end of June in Trump’s most prominent spot — right on Fifth Avenue, where Charles Jourdan operated until last year.

Ferragamo will have two Fifth Avenue doors and windows straddling the main entrance to the Trump atrium, and entrances from the inside, as well. There will be separate areas for Ferragamo’s men’s, women’s and accessories, with 5,000 square feet of selling space out of 9,200 gross square feet.

Some observers believe bringing together Ferragamo, whose handbags sell for up to $800, and Tower Records, which caters to the masses, is a mismarriage.

Trump disagrees.

“It fits incredibly,” he said. “Tower will have its highest grade assortment and will be very upscale.”

It’s part of the new retail philosophy at Trump Tower.

“We want everybody to leave Trump Tower with a shopping bag,” explained Robert Futterman of Garrick-Aug Associates, Trump’s retail leasing agent. “We don’t care if they buy a $3,000 dress or a $15 CD.” “Tower Records has nothing to do with our store,” said Massimo Ferragamo, president of Ferragamo U.S.A. “We’re interested in being on the best block on Fifth Avenue, near Bergdorf Goodman and Bulgari. We don’t plan to only draw from an audience that goes into Trump Tower. That’s more of a mix of customers. Our focus is on those shopping on Fifth Avenue — in the best stores.”

As for the Nike interest in Trump Tower, Trump himself was reportedly talking to officials of the footwear and apparel firm about taking over the Galeries Lafayette space. Galeries, however, which has been struggling since opening in New York in September 1991, insists it is staying put. Trump declined to comment on the situation, but sources say he’s disappointed that Galeries doesn’t draw more business. Galeries occupies half of the five-level atrium’s 120,000 square feet of selling space. George Graf, president of Galeries on 57th Street, said store traffic is rising.

“Transactions are up 4 percent so far this spring,” he noted, due to new assortments. “Ready-to-wear is finally selling. That was our weak point when the store first opened.” What is still lacking at Trump is a top American designer store. That probably won’t happen until some prime real estate, with the kind of visibility that Ferragamo is getting, becomes available again.

“As leases come up, we will be announcing some major people,” Trump promised. He did not elaborate.

At the 11-year-old Trump Tower, the upper levels generally haven’t drawn as much traffic as those below. The Tower has firmly established itself as a major tourist attraction, but as a shopping destination, it’s had some setbacks.

It requires a good deal of navigating to reach the upper levels, where most of the stores are. Escalators that cantilever through space provide a spectacular view of the waterfall and marble interiors, but the traffic pattern doesn’t flow by the stores with any degree of swiftness.

Bonwit Teller closed in 1990, and its replacement, Galeries Lafayette, has had problems. Martha Inc., Charles Jourdan, Lina Lee, Tucan, Mondi and some art galleries all closed over the last several years.

Martha was on the third and fourth floors.

“It was beautiful,” said Lynn Manulis, president of Martha. “We couldn’t take care of all our customers in the beginning.” But, she said, Trump Tower needs more accessibility.

“Corridors are a bit confusing,” she said. “It’s not enough of a walk-in situation.” Martha’s eventually went bankrupt and closed its New York stores, but the Trump situation was not the overriding problem, said Manulis, who blamed “a terrible recession and high rents at our Park Avenue stores.”

Yet some stores on the upper levels of Trump Tower appear to be thriving. CachÄ, which opened a 2,000-square-foot unit on the third floor in late 1991, filling the former Tucan space, is tracking about $750 to $800 a square foot.

“We’re above plan and we expect 15 percent annual increases,” said Michael Warner, the chain’s president. He said Tower Records and Ferragamo should be “positive” additions.

“Customers definitely visit the upper levels,” said Warner. “They want to see what the Tower is all about. Eighty percent of our business is international. We get a lot of tourists. It’s a high percentage of impulse shopping, definitely fashion-forward, though the repeat business is not as high. We make a very nice profit in the store. Volumewise, it’s among the top 20 in our chain of 112 stores. Profitwise, it’s the same.”

CachÄ sells 35 to 40 dresses a week, averaging $300 to $700, whereas Martha’s prices were in the $500-to-$2,000 range, sometimes going higher.

According to sources, Abercrombie & Fitch, which has 7,100 square feet of retail space, does $3.5 million to $4 million annually. A&F has a $100-a-square-foot fixed minimum rent, but last year paid an additional $50,000 because its volume was so high. Asprey does $11 million in sales, sources said. Only Galeries has a higher total volume, exceeding $20 million. Cartier reportedly does $4,500 a square foot and is the most productive store. Asprey had no comment. Cartier and Abercrombie & Fitch could not be reached for comment.

According to Trump, all the stores in Trump Tower posted a combined $101 million in sales last year. Trump contends that stores on the upper floors do just as well as the lower ones, but acknowledged, “Vertical retailing is tough. New York is not an atrium town; it’s a streetscape. Stores are off the streets, but what happens at Trump Tower is that the architecture draws people in.”

He added that people feel good once inside, due to tight security and good housekeeping. Each year, Trump Tower spends over $1 million on security, another $1 million on cleaning and $150,000 for window washing. Polishing the bronze fixturing and Italian marble alone costs over $500,000 a year, according to the Trump organization.

Thirteen floors of office space rise above the retailing floors, and 260 residential luxury condominiums are on top of the offices.

Last year, four million people swung through Trump Tower’s revolving bronze doors on Fifth Avenue, according to David Malitzky, Trump’s vice president of real estate.

“We expect that to increase with Tower [Records] and Ferragamo,” he said.

Some major new attractions in the vicinity have already increased traffic. Warner Bros. opened last October on the northeast corner of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue and continues to be one of the hottest stores in town.

Barneys New York opened on Madison Avenue and 61st Street last September, and Levi Strauss plans to open on 57th Street in spring 1995. In addition, Chanel is relocating to a bigger site on 57th Street, and Burberrys is renovating.

And even if it doesn’t get the Galeries site, Nike is apparently bound for the area. Nike officials said nearby alternatives are being considered.

Trump claims there’s a big demand for space at Trump Tower, and that he’s been able to raise some annual rents, which usually range from $100 to $400 a square foot, depending on the location, but which can be as high as $600. There’s currently a 10 percent vacancy rate in the atrium, an official said.

Ferragamo beat out Joan & David for the Fifth Avenue site, in part because Trump preferred the Italian firm. That Ferragamo reportedly was willing to pay more rent didn’t hurt.