T.S. Eliot told us that “April is the cruelest month.” Are those sinister daffodils merely leading us on with false hope and promises of rebirth and renewal? Signs of spring are everywhere, sprouting wildly over that fertile valley otherwise known as Fifth Avenue. While tulips and crocus abound in curbside planters up and down the street, hordes of early-season shoppers are fawning over the new stores that seemingly appeared overnight.
The latest blossom on the Fifth Avenue branch of the retail garden is Zara, opened on the Ides of March, appropriately or not. It joins the likes of Uniqlo, Lacoste, Guess, Urban Outfitters, Swatch, Godiva, Hollister and the soon-to-bloom Joe Fresh.
Mannequin companies must be thrilled. While Zara doesn’t come near Uniqlo’s mind boggling 400 silent sales associates, it’s no piker with its 60-plus mannequins in a 32,000-square-foot space. Mannequins populate the avenue in a multitude of styles, colors and forms; some glossy, some matte, and mostly abstract. Fixture companies are flexing their muscles, too, while showing their wares on the famous retail corridor with metal, glass, polished wood and sustainable materials. New finishes and surface treatments add texture and vibrancy to what was previously a bleak and baron picture. LED monitors are plentiful, displaying as much color as red-breasted robins returning to nest.
But all of these signs of spring invariably bring me back to T.S. Eliot. Is this simply a tease, a hoax, an empty promise, or will these young shoots take root and lead the way to more fertile pastures in the retail landscape? The jury is still out, but happily, so are the shoppers. And that’s no April fools.