At Americana Manhasset, the salespeople know your closet better than you do. They call designers in Paris or Milan to find the perfect little black dress. They deliver soup when you’re ill.
Situated on Long Island’s Gold Coast, about 30 minutes from Manhattan, the open-air shopping center is one of several American malls that have figured out how to thrive by catering to One Percenters.
Americana Manhasset’s 60 shops sell the priciest status brands -- Dior, Gucci, Hermes, Cartier, Prada. Some customers spend more than $100,000 a year and five times that if they’re planning a wedding or buying fine jewelry. Danielle Merollo, the mall’s personal shopper, recently accompanied a client to a private Prada show in New York to buy a bespoke fur cape.
“Danielle always finds what I need,” said the client, Cynthia Rosicki, an attorney who also runs the Sparkling Pointe vineyard.
Even as middle-class Americans struggle with stagnant wages and demand deals that are hurting discount chains, wealthy shoppers are helping fuel sales at luxury retailers. Total retail sales are projected to grow 4.1 percent this holiday season -- the highest rate in three years, according to the National Retail Federation.
Still, with malls closing all around the country, the proprietors of Americana Manhasset can take nothing for granted. Each year the services get more lavish, the shops larger and more resplendent. Stores that aren’t hitting sales targets don’t get their leases renewed. While luxury retail is relatively immune to Web disruption, the mall is adding blogs and videos featuring the latest fashions to its website.
“We know our customers can shop anywhere -- and they travel a lot -- so we have to go overboard with service,” said Deirdre Costa Major, president of mall owner Castagna Realty Co.’s retail group.
Americana Manhasset shuns the word mall, preferring “premier shopping destination.” And with its limestone shopfronts, granite sidewalks and colorful flower beds, the place looks nothing like the original strip mall that opened in 1956 with a drive-through bank, ice-cream parlor, moderate- priced retailers including Lerner’s and Bakers Shoes and, later, a Waldbaum’s supermarket.
The shopping center might have ended up like so many other malls -- losing customers, teetering on the edge of oblivion -- were it not for the foresight of Frank Castagna, Castagna Realty’s chairman.