75 Ninth Avenue
Anthropologie is the kind of store that specializes in turning products into feelings—the feeling, for instance, that each of its shoppers embodies a high-femme ideal of ruffled, insouciant originality—while inescapably exposing those feelings as fantasies. Of course, it’s hardly a novel trick, marketers tapping into consumers’ readiness to buy a feeling. But Anthropologie is distinctive in the meticulously curated aesthetic of its world, a world enameled with twee birds on branches, full of subtly distressed sideboards and all but choking on frills.
It’s fitting that the chain has chosen Chelsea Market for its next Manhattan location. Affecting a similar air of rustic, European-flea-market whimsy, Chelsea Market is stocked with artisanal cheeses, upscale kitchen wares and the hand-crafted, typically Third World–imported finds that stand in for authenticity and narrative in the modern American lifestyle.
The deal for the 8,500-square-foot space (plus about 7,650 feet on the lower level) was brokered by Wade McDevitt and Stephen Plourde of the McDevitt Co. (representing Anthropologie) and Karen Bellantoni and Robert K. Futterman of Robert K. Futterman & Associates (repping Chelsea Market).
Anthropologie, which last month reported a 3 percent increase in third-quarter sales and has been steadily opening stores, perhaps has had something to gain from a recession. Like the store, hard times evoke a nostalgic whimsy and make people want to get back to a more elemental way of life. The question then is whether an increasingly mainstream chain retailer can sustain its signature suggestion of authenticity and continue stamping out the kind of commodified unconventionality that made customers flock there in the first place.