Now Open: Zara's Biggest U.S. Store on Prime Stretch of Fifth Avenue

Zara has just opened its biggest store in the U.S., a massive flagship on a prime stretch of Fifth Avenue on 52nd Street -- a space formerly occupied by The NBA Store. This store is the first in the retailer’s global roll-out of a new retail concept emphasizing intimate boutiques within the context of a larger store, as well as features emphasizing sustainability.

This store is expected to consume 30 percent less energy and 70 percent less water than conventional stores, thanks to its unique lighting and heating systems (for example: motion detectors in the store dim the lights by 80 percent in areas where no one is present). "The Fifth Avenue location is fantastic, impressive and unique," Jesus Echeverria, Chief Communications Officer of Zara said at Wednesday’s unveiling.

The space is 32,000 square feet, and spread over three floors, and will require a whopping 450 people to run the store. Each of the floors is organized around two long corridors or "catwalks" that lead in to the more intimate boutique-like spaces. Elsa Urquijo Architects, a Spain-based firm, was in charge of the project. Urquijo said she was trying to create a space where "the customer becomes part of the fashion show." She added: "It’s not simply about displaying the clothes; the clothes need to be brought to life.”

In person, the store more closely resembles a luxury emporium than a fast fashion chain, replete with everything from seating areas with linen couches to marble floors. The Spain-based retailer, owned by The Inditex Group (which last year generated $12.5 billion in revenue), has 47 stores in the U.S. thanks to an aesthetic based on the idea of runway-inspired looks for less and quick merchandise turnaround. Zara stores place trend orders every three weeks and new merchandise is delivered to stores 36 to 48 hours after an order is placed, making this some seriously fast fashion. New merchandise will arrive in this new Fifth Avenue flagship twice a week. Echeverria emphasized that orders are placed in small batches to ensure that the product mix is right -- if something doesn’t hit with shoppers, it’s gone.

Zara also employs over 1,000 designers, and is constantly monitoring global fashion trends. Those being emphasized in this newly-opened flagship include pastels, peplum skirts and minimalist neutrals. For men, there are double-breasted jackets, creeper shoes and blazers with short pants on display.

Zara is just the latest foreign mass retailer to expand its brand on this prime stretch of Fifth Avenue. Japan-based Uniqlo opened up a 89,000 square foot flagship nearby just last fall. For anyone curious what is going to happen to the old Zara store on Fifth (down the block on 54th), it's going to happen to the former Zara store, down the block on 54th Street, it is being converted into a Massimo Dutti shop -- a higher-priced version of Zara also owned by The Inditex Group.

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