New York City’s luxury retail outlook is dim — literally.
Swanky Madison Avenue shops on the Upper East Side are lowering lights, locking doors and opening by appointment only in an effort to combat a relentless scourge of brazen daytime shoplifters terrorizing the glitzy thoroughfare.
The Carolina Herrera boutique near 67th Street has been robbed so many times it now pretends to be shuttered, with lights dimmed and door dead-bolted shut, even during normal business hours.
“It looks closed,” lamented one bride-to-be, hoping to drop six figures on three Herrera dresses for the walk down the aisle and post-ceremony receptions. She noted it’s a “bad look” for one of the world’s most celebrated luxury shopping districts.
Shop workers opened the door after seeing the future bride and a friend peering through the window.
“The normal thing now today is to lock our doors on Madison Avenue,” confessed Carolina Herrera sales associate Michelle Singh, while showing off the fashion accessories, handbags most notably, that have proven a favorite target of an apparent organized band of shoplifters brazenly plucking luxury fashions off the shelves of avenue boutiques.
Herrera’s swankiest handbag, a supple black leather fashion statement dotted with sparkling handblown Murano glass from Italy, is reportedly a favorite of Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. It costs $4,500.
Singh was at the center of one recent theft, when a “normal-looking man in his 40s” made off with “four or five” bags from Venezuelan-American fashion maker and NYC resident Herrera. Singh tried to stop the hoodlum from walking out with the stash, but was encouraged by colleagues to let him unlock the door and leave for fear he might turn violent.
“We don’t feel safe,” chimed in a Carolina Herrera store manager, who gave his hame only as Michael. “You feel violated when they come in.” The store has locked its doors “for at least several months” to limit unfettered access.
Nearby, Chanel (at 64th) and Prada (at 70th) are also locked during normal business hours, with well-dressed security guards standing by, opening the entrance for potential shoppers after eyeing them through the door windows. An NYPD patrol car with two officers sat outside Prada Friday afternoon.
In February, a team of seven thieves strolled out of The Real Real on Madison at 71st Street with nearly $500,000 worth of handbags and jewelry, in the shopping district’s most brazen daytime heist.
“It’s very much an organized crime model,” said Matthew Bauer, president of the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District.
The shoplifters, who often go un-prosecuted under soft-on-crime Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, are “just the tip of the iceberg” and “following orders” for a much larger crime syndicate, Bauer said.
“These gangs are more aggressive and violent than in years past,” the National Retail Federation reported in its 2021 security survey, noting that 69 percent of outlets witnessed an increase in organized retail crime over the past year.
Bauer’s organization teamed up with other Midtown BIDs this month to demand action from Gov. Hochul against the staggering crime spree that is tarnishing New York City’s rep for luxury shopping.
The 19th Precinct, which includes much of the Upper East Side, reports a dramatic 47 percent rise in grand larceny year, with 470 incidents so far in 2022, up from 320 incidents at the same time last year. Petty larceny has also skyrocketed, up nearly 60 percent from 709 incidents in 2021 to 1,129 in 2022.
There has been a shocking rise in theft across the city, with grand larceny up 54 percent and petty larceny up 42 percent, according to NYPD data. Citywide shoplifting complaints have jumped 81 percent in the past year, Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael LiPetri said in April.
The fallout for shoppers is that a stroll down Madison Avenue has lost much of its luster and spontaneity. Many retailers now encourage, or even require, shoppers to make appointments before they open the doors.
Peggy Hogan of Westchester was hoping to browse Monique Lhuillier on Madison at 69th Friday afternoon, but was stunned to learn she could not get an appointment until May 17.
“It’s tough to get in these days,” she said.