Sarah Jessica Parker's first retail store is in casino

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker announced last week that she is opening her first stand-alone boutique, a shoe-centric shop with heels and handbags, inside a casino in Maryland, just outside of Washington.
Actress Sarah Jessica Parker announced last week that she is opening her first stand-alone boutique, a shoe-centric shop with heels and handbags, inside a casino in Maryland, just outside of Washington.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON • After years of selling shoes and accessories at department stores, actress Sarah Jessica Parker announced last week that she is opening her first stand-alone boutique, a shoe-centric shop with US$240 (S$340) heels and US$695 handbags.

But the location - inside a casino in Maryland, just outside of Washington - has left some, such as market researcher Pam Danziger, stumped.

"It doesn't make sense to me," said Ms Danziger, whose work focuses on affluent consumers.

Why not New York, she wondered. The city has become synonymous with Parker since her run as the star of Sex And The City.

Even a dozen years after its airing, the show remains so popular that people still line up to take tours of the characters' hot spots around town.

The actress lives in the West Village.

"It is a bit surprising," said Mr Michael Isen, senior vice-president at NAI Michael, a commercial real- estate brokerage in Lanham.

"That someone like Sarah Jessica Parker wants to open her first store in Prince George's County speaks volumes."

The SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker store, which debuts this week at the MGM National Harbor, will open alongside a Louis Vuitton store and restaurants by prominent chefs including Jose Andres and Marcus Samuelsson.

The property will also have a 11,600 sq m casino, a spa and salon, and 308 hotel rooms.

"I'm sure it boils down to: MGM just made an incredibly good deal," Ms Danziger said. "She's getting prime real estate with the potential for a lot of traffic, likely for very little money."

To understand why Parker might have ended up in Maryland, Milton Pedraza of the Luxury Institute says it makes sense to look at the state of the retail industry.

Luxury retailers, from Burberry to Prada, are struggling to get people into their stores. Spending is down and traffic to high-end shops has slipped 20 per cent.

"In short, there is a crisis sweeping the premium and luxury retail market today," Mr Pedraza said. "So why not go out on a limb and do something paradoxical? Consumers are tired of the same old, same old."

There are, he said, a number of factors in Parker's favour: The Washington suburbs are home to six of the country's 10 wealthiest counties (although the casino is not in one of them). And the casino is likely to draw large crowds of locals, as well as tourists, looking for glitz and glamour.

"She will have a high-end, captive audience that is looking to splurge," Mr Isen said.

To be sure, Parker is not the first to open an inaugural store in the outskirts of Washington.

A number of big-name companies, including Apple and Spanx, opened their first local retail stores outside of the District of Columbia. Both chose locations at the Tysons Corner Center mall in Virginia.

It is not uncommon for retailers to test the waters in a lesser-known suburban market before opening in a more-visible location such as New York or Los Angeles, says Mr Marshal Cohen, a retail analyst for market research firm NPD Group.

"If it doesn't work, very few people will notice. You can just close and move on and nobody is the wiser."

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 13, 2016, with the headline 'Sarah Jessica Parker's first retail store is in casino'. Print Edition | Subscribe