The Asprey flagship in Manhattan.

Out-of-town department stores have been searching Manhattan for a site, and Donald Trump said one might work in Trump Tower.

NEW YORK — Out-of-town department stores have been searching Manhattan high and low for a site — and Donald Trump said he’s inclined to accommodate one in Trump Tower.

“Actually, I’m talking to a department store,” Trump said, when asked what is happening with the 30,000-square-foot space in the Trump Tower that is being vacated by Asprey, the venerable English luxury brand.

“We could bring it up to 65,000 square feet,” he added.

Asprey opened with great flair in December 2003 at 723 Fifth Avenue in the Trump Tower between 56th and 57th Streets, and with too much space to justify its limited traffic. Asprey plans to close the store and move to a smaller spot on 57th Street between Madison and Park Avenues in July. Asprey held a private sale by invitation only on Wednesday and a sale for the general public is being held today, said a store associate.

Rent on the prime Trump spot goes for $17.5 million a year, Trump said. The developer would not disclose which department store he’s been negotiating with. It’s well known that J.C. Penney, Target and Nordstrom are all eager to open a store in Manhattan, but they need sufficient size. Also, Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue may be too tony for the midmarket Penney’s and Target, a discounter.

There has also been speculation that certain upscale foreign retailers, including Harvey Nichols and Holt Renfrew, are interested in coming to America. But luxury chains would face fierce competition from Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and the scores of designer shops lining Madison and Fifth Avenues and 57th Street.

The standard department store model requires roughly twice as much space than what Trump could offer, though some department stores have shown flexibility by adopting smaller formats. Nordstrom has an 80,000-square-foot unit in Naples, Fla., and Bloomingdale’s two years ago opened a 90,000-square-foot unit in SoHo specializing in contemporary apparel and accessories.

There has been speculation that the Ralph Lauren Corp. checked out the former Asprey site. It would be a good spot for Lauren, considering the brand’s nearest locations are the two units on Madison Avenue between 71st and 72nd Streets. A spokeswoman for Ralph Lauren said the company does not comment on rumors.

This story first appeared in the May 18, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Ralph Lauren Corp. has seven stores in Manhattan.