20 Apr Ralph Lauren still paying rent at abandoned former flagship store
For passersby on Fifth Avenue on Thursday, there was no evidence that legendary American designer Ralph Lauren operated a grand flagship store at 55th Street.
The royal blue awnings are gone and the flagpole, which once proudly flew a banner with the fluttering image of a horse and polo player, stands naked.
And just as important, there is no new tenant setting up shop and, according to sources, no broker has started marketing the 39,000-square-foot space that has been dark since the designer shut off the lights one last time on Saturday.
The only constant, it appears, is that Ralph Lauren Corp. continues to pay rent of nearly $70,000 a day.
“That gives you a good indication of how poorly they were doing at that location that they are paying rent there on an empty space rather than stay open until they find a new tenant,” said one real estate expert, who did not want to be identified.
The stunning and sudden departure of the retailer after just two years on the most famous shopping corridor is unprecedented, said Tom Cusick, president of the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District. “I don’t recall any company pulling out of a location with a long-term lease after such a short time on Fifth Avenue.”
The iconic fashion house, which has been fighting sagging sales and has closed 50 other stores, signed a $400 million, 16-year lease for the flagship store in 2013. That rent averages $25 million a year, or $68,493 a day.
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“This decision has more to do with the company saving money on salaries and benefits,” said the real estate executive.
Ralph Lauren, which operates seven other Big Apple stores, laid off 125 staffers at the store, where it continues to operate the popular Polo Bar, which is located around the corner.
The building, at 711 Fifth Ave., owned by the Coca-Cola Co., had housed a Disney store.
Ralph Lauren declined to comment.