As Stores Citywide Falter, Temporary Markets Grow More Popular with Retailers

As malls across the United States suffer diminishing sales, and storefront rents across New York City fall, markets of the more old-fashioned variety are growing increasingly more popular among retailers.

“[T]his year we are witnessing about a 20 percent increase in demand,” said Sar Inbar, one of three partners behind Upsilon Ventures.

Upsilon Ventures operates the Holiday Shops at the Pond at Bryant Park, and as the July 17 application deadline for vendors approaches, Mr. Inbar has noted a striking uptick, one that he largely attributes to the economy. “I think that the most important value factor that really drives vendors’ interest even more now is our business model,” Mr. Inbar said. “It eliminates a lot of the long-term factors.”

Mr. Inbar won’t have exact numbers until the application deadline, but last year, for 120 shops, Upsilon received 328 applications and more than 450 inquiries. It would make sense that in this buckling retail economy, this sort of set-up would attract businesses. For one, it’s not a huge investment. Booths range in price from $10,000 to $27,500, depending on size and location.

“In this overall climate, where so many people have lost jobs and are looking for different outlets and avenues to make money, this provides an excellent opportunity,” agreed Cory Zelnik, of Zelnik & Co., a retail real estate brokerage, who is not involved in the market. “For businesses that exist, this allows them to make more money without a long-term commitment.”

Eldon Scott, the president of U.S. operations for Urban Space Management, which operates the Columbus Circle and Union Square holiday markets, said his firm has noticed the same phenomenon, in this recession and in recessions past. In fact, there have been instances of shop owners closing their stores and still operating businesses at the seasonal fairs.

“This year we’ve seen that,” Mr. Scott said. “The other thing we’ve seen is more people who may have been working on Wall Street or somewhere and have decided to follow an interest they have. We have a lot of people who will test an idea at a market. You’re guaranteed traffic. And you get your product and idea in front of a lot of people without having a major committment in terms of real estate.”

As Mr. Zelnik put it, “It’s extra business without a tremendous cost.”

As Stores Citywide Falter, Temporary Markets Grow More Popular with Retailers