How Century 21 was able to make a comeback
The problems identified by the Chief Financial Officer have not gone away, but rather have gotten worse.
The reopening plan goes against the trend away from stationary retail, the ongoing disruptions in the supply chain and the slow death of the department store. Even before the pandemic, many popular shops and restaurants in Manhattan that couldn’t afford to keep up with rent costs were closing — notably Barneys, the luxury department store on Madison Avenue, which saw this Rent jumped from $16 million to $30 million a year in 2019.
Century 21’s owners “can control their destiny because they control this particular property, because they own it,” said Nina Kampler, a retail real estate strategic advisor. “Unlike Barneys which has actually been cannibalized by the rental structure. If Barneys wasn’t choked by this economy, they might still be alive. Barneys was killed by the rent.
The family real estate company acts as a backbone for these problems. Her portfolio stretches from Canada to Florida and from New York to California. They also own property in London, but it seems clear that the retail business is the sentimental heart of the Gindi family.
Century 21 was founded in 1961 by family patriarch Al Gindi, the son of Syrian Jewish immigrants.
“Our father started this business 60 years ago. We’re committed to continuing the legacy,” co-CEO IG Gindi told Women’s Wear Daily on Thursday. The family declined to speak to Gothamist.
The only other time the Financial District store was closed was after 9/11 when the merchandise was covered in ash from the Twin Towers. The family said they reopened then as part of efforts to rebuild the city after the attack.
“Our flagship store has long been a symbol of this city’s resilience and unshakeable spirit,” Raymond Gindi said in a statement this week. “But like the true New Yorkers that we are, we persevered.”
The company promises that it will not change its basic concept of high-end brands at rock-bottom prices.
Cynthia Furman, who works with stores at DSS, said the comeback will be a boon for shoppers.
“I think it’s important that it opens up again,” she said. “People missed Century 21. If a business like that comes back, it will bring the walk-in customers back.”
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, the rent increase at Barney’s Madison Avenue location was incorrectly reported. It was increased to $30 million a year, not a month, in 2019.