The companies range from Christian Louboutin to Cartier to Canada Goose. The leasing fervor prompted Zegna, which found all ground-floor space taken in the mall, to opt for opening a location in the retail spot at the redesign’s adjacent office building One Phipps Plaza, just to be close to its peers.
Vicki Hanor, senior executive vice president and managing director of luxury leasing for Simon, said the two malls will house a combined 65 luxury brands by the end of 2024, ranking among the densest footprints of opulent shopping in the country.
“This property is in very high demand,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They all want to be here.”
Hanor said the floodgates opened last year when Hermes announced it signed a lease for a 7,000-square-foot store with an outdoor patio connecting to Phipps’ new greenspace. Real estate experts told the AJC at the time that Hermes is the type of brand whose clout attracts other high-end companies.
Hermes, known for its lavish artisanal products and leather craftwork, is expected to close its current location at the Buckhead Village District to join the mall. Simon last year acquired 50% of Jamestown, the Buckhead Village District’s owner, but the two companies operate independently.
Several of the committed luxury brands have yet to open their stores, including Hermes, which is poised to complete its new Phipps location in mid-2024. But Hanor said the mall’s sales have surpassed 2019 by 38% so far this year. She said it is evidence that not only is the pandemic’s disruption of retail over, shoppers are returning in droves to peruse products in person.
“Through the pandemic, it really became evident that shopping online is boring,” Hanor said. “People like coming to the centers to touch and feel the merchandise, to try it on and to take it home with them that day.”
Lease terms vary by tenant, but Hanor said most are for about a decade. As part of Simon’s investment campaign, cherry wood facades throughout Phipps were painted white to reinforce the shopping center’s air of prestige. A Starbucks coffee kiosk was also shuttered to avoid cluttering one of the mall’s wings, which Hanor said would “enhance the common area.”
The outdoor amenity deck was designed to keep shoppers and travelers within eyesight of the mall’s grandeur. Simon tore down an underperforming Belk to make way for the mixed-use area, which includes an office building with Novelis and Goldman Sachs as tenants.
Where yesterday’s shoppers sampled cosmetics or were fitted for shoes, today’s visitors lounge with a cocktail and contemplate their next destination. Perhaps it’s the Life Time fitness center or its coworking space. Maybe it’s a visit to the Nobu hotel, its namesake sushi restaurant or the building’s rooftop pool. Or possibly it’s a visit to the new Citizens Market food hall.
“A lot of capital is being put into our properties to make them better,” Hanor said. “We’re thinking toward the future.”
A half-mile away, Lenox Square is experiencing a similar boost in leasing, Hanor said. Six luxury brands, including Moncler and Gucci, are either opening a new location or expanding an existing storefront by next year. Four luxury retailers — Balenciaga, Gucci, Fendi and Tiffany & Co. — operate stores in both Lenox Square and Phipps.
Lenox has been the subject of negative headlines over the past few years because of multiple shootings in the mall’s parking lots. The violent incidents became a rallying point for the Buckhead cityhood effort that was quashed this year, and prompted a youth supervision policy at Lenox that barred unaccompanied minors from the premises after 3 p.m.
“I think Simon spends more money than any other landlord around the country on security,” Hanor said. “And we’re very focused on creating a safe environment for our customers and our employees and our tenants.”