Taking It Up a Notch: Gucci's Jumbo Flagship Raises Bar on 5th Ave.

Is Fifth Avenue the next Ginza? Gucci's new 46,000-square-foot flagship at 725 Fifth Avenue in takes Manhattan's designer retailing to a whole new level.

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NEW YORK — Is Fifth Avenue the next Ginza?

Gucci's new 46,000-square-foot flagship at 725 Fifth Avenue in Trump Tower takes Manhattan's designer retailing to a whole new scale, dwarfing many of its nearby competitors. The opening of the store, and Giorgio Armani's plans to open a 47,000-square-foot retail site on Fifth Avenue this fall, raises speculation as to whether Fifth Avenue is set to experience the luxury brand building boom seen recently in Tokyo's most famous shopping district, where one store is taller than the next.

Gucci's launch comes at a time when the difficult economy is putting a crimp in spending, and not just among low- and moderate-income shoppers. Luxury shoppers are being influenced psychologically by the downturn, retail experts said.

"Of course, we are reading the newspapers and following the situation like everyone else," said Gucci president and chief executive officer Mark Lee. "The local business through the fourth quarter was very solid. Our first focus is on the local customer base" as opposed to tourists, he said.

The Gucci flagship, opening Friday, completes creative director Frida Giannini's vision for the brand, and marks a definitive end to vestiges of the Tom Ford era, which were still evident in the previous store concept. The store replaces a 33,000-square-foot unit at 685 Fifth Avenue on the corner of 54th Street, which will close its doors on Thursday. The brand first came to New York in 1953 and has been at that location for almost three decades.

Gucci's new three-level store makes an impressive and imposing brand-building statement across 158 feet of frontage and a four-story facade.

Sources said Gucci hopes to do $100 million in sales in the first year. The company is reported to be paying $16 million in annual rent. Lee declined to discuss the rent or volume projections. "With a profit of 611 million euros in 2006, we have to do a lot of business in Gucci," he said.

Abercrombie & Fitch's 36,000-square-foot flagship at 720 Fifth Avenue is said to do $100 million in annual sales.

Gucci had to completely gut and rebuild the Fifth Avenue space, which was formerly occupied by Asprey. Giannini said she came to New York three times in the process of designing the store and spent much time with her design team in Florence working on the materials and with the architectural drawings. Creating the new retail look offered her a "great opportunity to explore another area of aesthetics and design that is not just about gowns or handbags, but the overall concept of my vision for Gucci," she said. "Also, my second passion after fashion was always architecture. I am the daughter of an architect."
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