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Two Minute Tour: Miami

Luxury retail is thriving in this southeastern Florida city

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The Numbers

This vibrant southeast Florida city boasts an ultra-cool vibe that has inspired entire songs devoted to its energetic scene. (Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami,” for one.) While A-listers flock to Miami for its status as the place to party and sunbathe, the city’s residents­ – all 400,000 of them and largely Hispanic (69 percent) – enjoy not only the active nightlife and beaches, but also a host of museums, art galleries and luxe shops. “[Miami is] a multicultural environment with a foundation built on service, style and innovation,” says George Helmstetter, developer and co-founder of The DevStar Group, a Miami-based development and investment firm. “It’s a unique marketplace that attracts investors and residents from all over the world.”

The Pulse

While Miami’s mid-range retail sector took a hit in the economic downturn, luxury retail is thriving. “The sales-per-square-foot metrics in luxury destinations are up 10 to 15 percent year after year,” Helmstetter says. “The market is bifurcated between the wealthy and everyone else. In general, the upper class’ disposable income has remained flat or has increased over the last four years while everyone else’s disposable income continues to be strained by higher energy and food prices, as well as underemployment.”

The Hotspots

Real estate developer Craig Robins began snapping up rundown­ and vacant­ buildings in Miami’s Design District more than 10 years ago, slowly transforming the area into a hub for high-end fashion, dining, art and design. Fashion heavy hitters including Prada, Cartier and Hermès are located there alongside notable design showrooms such as Christian Liaigre. The iconic Bal Harbour Shops recently announced a $100-million investment to expand from 450,000 to 650,000 square feet. And the Brickell CityCentre, a mixed-use development that will bring more than 5.4 million square feet of office, residential, hotel, retail and entertainment space to the downtown financial core is set to open in phases by the end of 2015.

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Obstacles/Opportunities

“It’s interesting to see how a specific environment can affect and influence a brand,” Helmstetter says. “The creatively hip graffiti that covers the façade of the new Louis Vuitton store in the Design District is the exact opposite of the traditional high-end storefront you would see in New York or Los Angeles.” Yet the Design District’s glittery new look has become an attraction for criminals, the Miami New Times reported in March. One incident involved thieves lifting more than $37,000 worth of merchandise from the temporary Louis Vuitton store. For a city with such a sunny outlook, it’s a small setback.

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