The Airing of Grievances
Monday, December 20, 2004
Emporio Tim Allen
Most Manhattanites could give a crap about "big box" stores. If we were so inclined to to buy five gallons of mayonnaise, we would drive to Yonkers. Frankly, if it weren't for the prices, I would take the Korean Market over a Super Walmart any day of the week. Everything you want is within easy reach (if not so easy to find), you don't have to talk to some octogenarian with a sub-funded retirement plan at the door, and you can get goofy Asian junk like ginseng Royal Jelly. Try sourcing gingko paste in your local Walmart.
But Home Depot is coming through with something totally unexpected - a big box store that Manhattanite might actually like. They have taken the ENTIRE basement of the recently completed Bloomberg building, across from the professional Architects and Designers building on 59th & 3rd Avenue. It also happens on being on my walk to and from work. I decided to check it out.
+ = ?
108,000 sq. ft. of hardware goodness awaited me after going into the earth 50 feet. The store displays the very highest end fixtures that "big box" vendors like Kohler and HunterDouglas has to offer. The place is filled to the brim with crown moldings, $5,000 rugs and $10,000 bathtubs, and $1,000 faucets. It is bright and clean and sports 20 foot high ceilings, quite a luxury in the big town. It is really something, and I was shocked to see myself actually enjoying strolling through the wiiiiide lanes.
As to whether or not it will work, that remains another question. It seems to me that the whole value proposition of a "big box" retailer like The Home Depot is undermined by urban economies - not the least of which is the rent that 108,000 sq. ft. across the street from Bloomingdales in midtown HAS to be 20-25 times their normal rent for a space like that - but there are others. For example, the type of person in NYC who would buy a $10,000 bathtub is certainly not going to be installing it himself - in fact, their interior designer probably picked it out as well as a dozen other unique things for that particular bathroom, so the people Home Depot is trying to appeal to will not even be the purchaser of these goods they are selling. Moreover, you can get alot of the products they sell for less money from specialty retailers like Gracious Home and ABC Carpet. Oh, and not the least of which is that most Home Depots are desitnation stores that people drive to, here it is just another part of a jingoistic professional world of contractors and designers that may or may not take to smiling people in orange aprons. Now I'm not saying that The Home Depot is going to exactly fail in NYC, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were trying to "restructure" their lease in a year or two.