Balenciaga is getting in on the Hamptons retail scene. The Parisian luxury brand has rented 54 Main Street in East Hampton, a 900-square-foot space that was formerly occupied by Brooks Brothers. A Balenciaga employee said the company will open the space, but declined further comment.

This story first appeared in the May 18, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Other high-end brands have retreated from the trendy summer beach locale. Gucci, which opened an East Hampton store in 2006, shuttered its 46 Main Street location last winter.

It remains to be seen whether the appetite for high spending has returned to East Hampton consumers. For example, Balenciaga’s giant Arena covered folder handbag is $1,925 and its black biker jacket is $2,595.

Retail brokers in East Hampton said there’s more demand for space this year, but rents are still not back to their prerecession levels of about $200 a square foot. Rather, Main Street is fetching about $125 a square foot, while Newtown Lane is getting around $100 a square foot, said Hal Zwick, a retail broker at Devlin McNiff in East Hampton.

Other brokers said there were probably more vacancies at this time last year and that retailers seem to be taking multiyear leases or year-round leases rather than just renting for the summer months.

Anything would be an improvement over last summer, when retail sales were down 35 percent in the area, according to Zwick.

“Housing rentals are stronger this year,” he said. “A lot of the good properties went early, but you can still get rentals. People are still cautious, but they have more money this year and feel more comfortable about putting money down on rentals.”

Supply outstripped demand in terms of retail space as well. Some landlords left “for rent” signs up in store windows even after leases were signed “to get names for next year,” Zwick said. “A number of retailers couldn’t get space. People are shocked and say, ‘What do you mean there’s no space available?’ We have a healthier situation than last year.”

Zwick said he’s working with two major retailers on leases for next year. “They want to try to have the leases done by the fall,” he said.

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