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5th Avenue for Rent: Sean John and Zara Get Ready to Move In

Sean Combs is about to change the face of Fifth Avenue in the 40s with his first Sean John store, WWD has learned.

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However, there is plenty of opportunity for fashion firms, or even discounters, to break in. Among the biggest Fifth Avenue locations available are Today’s Man on the southeast corner of 44th Street, the Wiz on the southeast corner of 46th Street, and the HMV site at 46th Street, where a lease is said to be coming due, though it’s possible HMV will renew. In addition, the Charles Scribner building between 48th and 49th Streets is reportedly being marketed. It currently houses Benetton’s Sisley division.

There are many more "space available" signs on Fifth Avenue, particularly in the 40s.

Generally, fashion brands seeking a Fifth Avenue site for a retail flagship search north of Saks, which is between 49th and 50th Streets. But it’s tough to find space there, and availability, even in these challenging economic times, remains slim.

So far, there has only been minimal fashion migration south, but there is a sense it could pick up owing to the lack of availability to the north. Lacoste is opening this summer on the southwest corner of 49th Street, and United Colors of Benetton about two months ago opened adjacent to the Scribner building. American Girl is taking the former Korean Airlines space just south of Saks.

Sean John’s entry could spark greater interest in the corridor, currently rife with vacancies and lease deals. Sources said Fifth Avenue sites north of 49th might soon be available, reflecting the economic times. Among them, Hugo Boss at 717 Fifth Avenue, may be available once its AOL Time Warner Center store opens. The Disney Store also could undergo some downsizing.

"There are plenty of opportunities for retailers to seize a presence on Fifth Avenue at reasonable rents," said Richard Hodos, president of Madison HGCD retail real estate brokers. Rents range from $160 to $200 a square foot from 37th to 47th Streets, while rents go for around $300 a square foot from 47th to 49th Streets, Hodos said.

"On the other hand, it remains a question mark whether upscale shoppers will venture below 49th Street," he added.

Still, wherever P. Diddy goes, the crowds follow, and based on the wide acceptance of his Sean John line at department stores, his foray into retailing is likely to go well beyond Fifth Avenue, possibly to such places as Beverly Hills and Miami. P. Diddy has a retail team in place, headed by Charles Soriano, director of retail. Soriano declined to talk about the Fifth Avenue store.
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