International Retailers Plan Fresh City Spots

There’s really no need to travel to other First World countries at all anymore—unless, of course, you’re interested in architecture and landscape and other such trifles.

Hakkasan, the restaurant Time Out London called “a hidden Narnia of Oriental other-worldliness,” is scouting Manhattan locations for its first New World eatery. Britain’s Topshop and Topman, the clothier with well-publicized plans to open a flagship here this fall, is already hunting for several more sites. Britain’s Pret a Manger, with 14 outlets already, is planning a major expansion. Ditto that for Japan’s Muji.

Newmark Knight Frank Retail’s Jeffrey Roseman, for one, sees a trend. And he has a theory or two.

“The reality is, and it’s sort of bizarre, but New York and the U.S. have been an unbelievable kept secret from the international retailers,” Mr. Roseman said. “I don’t think they really thought of it until some companies blazed a trail. You know, H&M came over and it’s just done great. Zara and Uniqlo have done great. It’s unbelievable exposure as well.”

Of course, much as the retailers may deny it, the weak dollar can’t hurt either. Nor, for that matter, can the lessening of domestic competition.

Could this be the second wave of international retailers storming Manhattan?

Mr. Roseman was kind enough to quantify it for us:

“Five of every 10 clients inquiring about locations are international retailers from Europe and Asia that are new to the city,” said Mr. Roseman. “In 2005, it was more like two out of 10.”

Karen Bellantoni, executive vice president at retail brokerage Robert K. Futterman, recounted a similar trend: “I’m definitely seeing a lot of leases getting signed today with a lot of international clients.

“They’re finding they’ve got money to spend, and what’s better than New York real estate?”

Ka-ching!

Foreign retailers, perhaps because they’re treading stateside now, gave more diplomatic reasons for their sudden spurt of new growth.

“We already trade the brands with franchise partners in 30 countries worldwide, and this is more part of a strategic plan to move Topshop and Topman toward becoming global brands,” said Tania Foster-Brown, a spokeswoman for Topshop and Topman, which will open a four-floor flagship store in October at 478 Broadway. “Sir Philip Green and the team are looking at opening one or two further stores in New York City over the coming months, as and when the right sites come up.”

Hiroyoshi Azami, president of the beloved high-design shop Muji USA, said he plans to open six to eight more stores—that’s in addition to a new Soho location and his planned flagship shop at The New York Times building. But not because of the advantageous exchange rate.

“Just because [the] U.S. dollar is weaker than [the] Japanese yen, it does not mean our expansion will accelerate,” Mr. Azami said. “We are thinking of our expansion according to how much consumers will react in N.Y.C.”

Sacha Turner, business development manager at Pret a Manger, said she planned to open eight more locations in 2008 (twice as many as she opened last year).

“It’s kind of become a new thing that all of these stores are coming over here,” Ms. Turner said. “A lot of cities are becoming more international, and a lot of restaurants can take advantage of that, and they can expand. And the world is becoming more international, isn’t it?”

International Retailers Plan Fresh City Spots