Shopping Centers Today

APR 2015

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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O N T H E G R O U N D : S a i N T M a R T i N Retail paradise When people visit Saint Martin, they can do as the French do or as the Dutch do, depending on exactly where on the 87-square-kilometer (about 34 square miles) Caribbean island they happen to be. France rules the island's north sec- tion, called Saint-Martin, while the southern portion belongs to the Netherlands, and is called Sint Maarten. But residents and visitors cross from one to the other seamlessly and at whim. The absence on both the Dutch and French sides of import duties, dozens of pristine beaches and a wide selection of res- taurants and bars all add up to a powerful magnet for tourists, particularly from Canada and the U.S. Each year nearly 2 mil- lion cruise-ship passengers visit Saint Martin, whose population is about 75,000, and an additional 500,000 tourists arrive by plane. Cruise-ship passengers spend about $185 per person, on average, the highest in the Caribbean. "It's a destination that is attractive and heavily promoted," said James de Winter, Ca- ribbean real estate director for CBRE. The emergence of larger cruise ships over the past decade and the consequent heated price competition have diversified this island's retail from mainly high-end jewelry and electronics shops to global fashion stores that offer price variety, says real estate broker Arun Jagtiani, president of Island Real Estate Team, which handles commercial and residential property. The list of global tenants on cobblestoned, 2-kilometer-long Front Street — the busiest retail street in Philipsburg, the capital city of the Dutch side and location of the island's only cruise port — includes Crocs, Diamonds Interna- tional, Pandora, Ralph Lauren, Tiffany and Tommy Hilfiger. Last year Michael Kors opened a store on Old Street, off Front. Retailers do brisk business, as the island is known as a true duty- free market, with merchandise often priced 20 to 40 percent lower than in Canada and the United States. On the Dutch side they also boast zero sales tax; the French side's sales tax is 2 percent. The U.S. dollar and the euro are used on both sides. "Due to Sint Maarten be- ing absolutely duty-free and its geographic proximity to Anguilla and St. Barth, which cater to tourism's crème de la crème, this is a great retail market," said Sanjay Alwani, whose family owns Little Europe Jewelers, on Front Street. Diego Stecchi concurs. "Sint Maarten's tourist traffic is very high, concentrated in Philipsburg's only shopping area, Front Street," said Stecchi, managing director of Miami-based Luxury Retail Partners, holder of the Sint Maarten franchise for the Bally shoe chain, which is opening a store this year on Front. "The number of prospective customers is large and sophisticated, so there is room for other malls or shopping areas." The Dutch side is host to most of the global brands, but the attrac- tion in Marigot, the French capital city, involves the French-inspired boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. Another Marigot lure is the striking Le West Indies, a three-level mall made of concrete, marbled stone and wood, with elaborate arches, curved staircases and sky- lights. The mall houses designer stores, a bar, a restaurant and a spa. On the cruise port, meanwhile, the St. Maarten Harbour Group of Cos., the government entity that operates all ports, is adding more retail space. Scheduled to open this year on a Philipsburg beachfront property is the $2 million Down Street Cruise Heritage development, offering entertainment and small shops. The government's other ma- jor retail project is Harbour Point Village, located along the port, with 12 shops, 12 market stalls, some bars and a restaurant. Another bet on continuous growth is the ritzy, five-story Blue Mall, which opened in January 2014 in Cupecoy, over on the Dutch side — the island's fastest-growing community, with the wealthiest residents and private marinas. The first phase consists of 7,000 square meters (about 75,000 square feet) of gross leasable area, of which 77 percent is leased. The remaining stores are scheduled to open during this year's fourth quarter. The mall is part of an $80 million, 10-floor building overlooking the ocean. The developer is Venezuelan mall developer Fondo de Valores Inmobiliarios. For Saint Martin residents who would often travel to Miami to shop for brands unavailable locally, Blue Mall makes a welcome alternative. "As a resident," said Jagtiani, "it's best to have a retailer at a short drive rather than a plane ride." — María Bird Picó 70 S C T / A P R I L 2 0 1 5 b l u e m a l l : a r e t a i l a l t e r n a t i v e t o m i a m i

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