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The Hamptons aren’t over. They’re just mellowing out amid the global recession.
After last year’s downturn, retail vacancies filled up fast, particularly in East Hampton, where there’s been an infusion of designers and brands — from Hugo Boss to Juicy Couture as well as Chico’s bringing a lower-priced offering to a high-end field. For the first time, value has entered into the retail equation, and pop-up and temporary stores are proliferating.
And after a decade of evolving toward a year-round, spend-with-abandon destination, retailers say there’s contraction. Merchants must grab as much business as they can in July and August, when the real migration eastward occurs. This contrasts with past years, when good traffic could be counted on for a longer stretch, beginning a few weeks before Memorial Day and lasting until a few weeks past Labor Day.
“We have rolled the clock back 10 years, in terms of retail,” observed Lars Svanberg, owner of Main Beach Surf, at 352 Montauk Highway in Wainscott. “It’s a shorter season. It’s compressed to two months. Now we’re dialing into July and August. Every business will tell you the same thing. People are spending less time in the Hamptons. They’re busy working, trying to make a buck.”
“It’s our estimation that the Hamptons are more of a marketing than a profitability mechanism,” said Steve Greenberg, president of the Greenberg Group, retail real estate consultants based in Hewlett, Long Island. “But if a retailer can open for just the summer season [as a pop-up], it can be profitable. This summer, you will be seeing more people doing it. Seventy-five percent of the business is done in three months.”
“Even fancy stores in Manhattan are having a tough time making money, so if the business in the Hamptons is open for three or four months, I would guess it’s pretty hard to make money,” said one national retailer.
According to Jason Binn, chief executive officer and founder of Niche Media Holdings, publisher of Hamptons magazine among others, it’s not merely generating the sales volume that’s important. “It’s about keeping your business top of mind to a very attractive audience,” he said.