Is the retail mix at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta too luxe for locals?

J. Scott Trubey/STAFF

Corso Coffee quietly closed shop in mid-August after just over two years at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta. I discovered this fact last week when I was scheduled to meet someone there and neither of us was aware that Corso was no longer open for business.

Read More: Corso Coffee closed in Buckhead, to be replaced by Revelator Coffee concept

While store openings are a much heralded occasion, the closings slip by without much fanfare. This has particularly been the case at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta, the upscale retail development that officially opened in fall 2014.

The upscale coffee bar, a transplant from New York City, opened in December 2014 just a few months after the grand opening of the high-end, mixed-use development.

Corso, which will be replaced later this season by a new coffee concept — the Mourning Dove from Revelator Coffee, is one of several retail/restaurant casualties at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta.

In 2016, Raised Palate Restaurants group closed American Food and Beverage and Thirteen Pies (subsequently replaced by Taverna). The closures were reportedly part of a change in corporate strategy.

On the retail side, the development has lost Helmut Lang and Scoop NYC, the brand that redefined boutique shopping for a new generation, which shuttered its Buckhead location along with all of its other locations.

This was followed by the short life of North Carolina based Urbana Wellness Spa and Denim & Soul, a denim focused boutique that has franchise locations across the country. This spring, Kit and Ace, shuttered all of its stores including locations at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta and Ponce City Market.

The Shops Buckhead Atlanta has worked to expand its offerings including a few more moderate retail shops scattered among the luxury brands such as Hermes, Dior and Tom Ford. Stores such as Cos, Joie and Planet Blue have thus far held their own among the more luxe brands that survive with a solid client base.

The development has also introduced a range of fitness boutiques, service upgrades such as personal shopping and three-hour complimentary parking (with validation) and an annual fall shopping/style event called Style South.

Still, there has been continued speculation that this six blocks of upscale shopping in Buckhead is living on borrowed time.

Bisnow, a commercial real estate website, recently wondered “Is Luxury Losing Its Luster At The Shops Buckhead Atlanta?”

The story suggests that a lack of foot traffic and high retail rents, and perhaps a limited appetite for luxury shopping among millennials, are at the heart of the development’s problems.

Lawsuits filed by the Shops Buckhead Atlanta developer Oliver McMillan against former tenants for unpaid rents show pricing that ranged from about $50/SF up to $90/SF early in the leases, reports Bisnow. Those rents may have gone up to as much $100/SF by year 10 of the lease.

According to the story, those rates are comparable to the $50/SF to $70/SF retail rental rates at Lenox Square (with an added $20/ SF for extra expenses), but well above the average Atlanta retail rent of $12/SF, quoted in a recent Colliers International report.

But Lenox Square has the kind of foot traffic that retailers in the Shops Buckhead Atlanta just don’t see on a daily basis and that could make it hard for smaller boutiques to justify paying higher rents, said local experts quoted in the story.

While the closures at the Shops Buckhead Atlanta can mostly be summed up as the result of brands making the decision to shut multiple stores across the country or smaller operations that have struggled to gain a foothold in the market, it is unclear what that means for the future mix of retailers.

Reader Comments 0

25 comments
Eaton
Eaton

My guess is Corso's demise was a result of their lack of nearby parking. 

Ver1tas
Ver1tas

Went there once. Walked into a store that was selling cashmere sweaters for $2500. Saw a rap star or pro athlete parking his Lamborghini out front. Then went into the steak restaurant where I ran into a well known high net worth broker - a guy who makes a seven figure income - who, in a testament to their prices, had brought a flask from home so that he could freshen his vodka & soda in the men's room. As the old saying goes, once shame on you, twice shame on me. The Streets of Buckhead are a monument to conspicuous consumption. 

TheMatr1x
TheMatr1x

These shops are for the old retired class. Hermes is very expensive, millennials can't afford their products they go to Coach in Lenox down the street instead.

hlhat
hlhat

Even though I'm middle aged now, the shutdown of the Buckhead bar district years ago has been a total disaster.  It all started with the Ray Lewis murders back during the Super Bowl in 2000 and went downhill fast after that.  The bar district was big draw for Atlanta and the redevelopment of that area has been a total failure.  No one goes there to shop, eat, or meet friends.

bruga
bruga

As noted in postscript, most of the restaurant closures have been corporate moves, not Buckhead-specific. Try getting into Southern Gentleman or Gypsy Kitchen.


In context of global luxury and broader retail struggles, the development has had relatively low turnover among top brands (I'm a millennial and have never heard of Scoop NYC). These flagships serve as useful, albeit expensive, marketing vehicles and aren't solely dependent on foot traffic, unlike PCM or Lenox.


Buckhead Village is undergoing dramatic transformation, with significant, high-end housing and office space coming online soon. Retail does not look to be stabilizing, and the development will evolve accordingly, but there is no "meat" here to suggest Atlanta lacks the ability to support high-end developments (side note: Phipps has been open since 1969).


I get the feeling these stories are posted solely for the purpose of fostering baseless Atlanta-bashing.

Bryan Biccum
Bryan Biccum

You can blame Ray Lewis for the demise of Buckhead.  He should be in jail for murder and I could still be drinking beer at the Buckhead Saloon.

Truth05
Truth05

They built a luxury shopping complex in a city with a low median income of 49k. This shouldn't have come as surprise, the only business there that actually has normal foot traffic is the place selling 5 dollar burgers and that's not a great sign.

PJ25
PJ25

Buckhead is too ghetto for these types of shops.  Just walk around Lenox and Phipps (and hope you don't get robbed or carjacked) to realize most people are killing time and not spending money. 

Rckwell
Rckwell

Buckhead is too ghetto eh...go sell crazy somewhere else PJ25.

Laurie
Laurie

Besides facing the "retail ice age" where all of these areas will be urban blights..Can anyone explain WHY anyone is chasing "millennial money"??? Most of this group still lives with their parents, chooses not to work, and they as a group are very delayed into any type of typical entry into adult like behaviors. So they spend money on " experiences" not things... They chase odd trends such as $15 avocado toast...yet someone thinks an entire business plan can be built around a group that to date shows little if any promise or predictable trend?? So why would anyone build a retail or urban complex based on this group based on demographics??

Manman
Manman

How bout they cut the crap and the rents and let the dive bars back in. That's where it's headed in 10 years or less. ATL doesn't need or want this. Phipps and Lenox are right around the corner, Ponce City Market is down the road and a better mix to say nothing of a better look.


This place is sterile, boring, suburban. And some of us remember the great nightlife district it replaced.

QueenCtown
QueenCtown

We all know what's happening to "brick and mortar" retail.   And with a shrinking middle class, there will be less and less money for these "luxury" retailers.  

DS
DS

I remember when this part of Buckhead had lots of nightlife. People poured in to spend money and have a good time. 

But then the Chamber-of-Commerce types wanted to shut all that down and replace it with foo-foo Rodeo Drive luxury stores. How pretentious. Neither surprised nor sad to see it flounder.

jc77
jc77

@DS yeah and i also remember crime escalating there, and the closing time reduced by a couple hours for the bars/clubs due to said criminal acts/behavior.  

aheadabove
aheadabove

The development still wears the scars of it lying as an unfinished eyesore for many years.  Charging for parking did not help either.  The area never was a haven for shopping.  The upscale crowd demographics have changed over the past 5 years--- just go to Lenox and see that it is not the Buckhead blue bloods anymore.


Also, much of luxury shopping, like all shopping, is done online.  Most mall retailers are hurting...why would anyone expect this one to be different?


It needs  better entertainment venues within to succeed, such as a live theater, a live music house, or small concert venue to attract crowds.  Plus, it is not too family friendly, like other shopping venues.  Luxury shops must think beyond the box to endure. 

AKBarr
AKBarr

Maybe, the third iteration will be successful--20 years from today.

Good luck!

AceptableName
AceptableName

"Scoop NYC, the brand that redefined boutique shopping for a new generation..."

What kind of writing is this? Marketing plagiarism?

Pay for MyAJC - get someone else's writing! Super Cox!

middlegrounder
middlegrounder

It's because the middle class is being hollowed out. Think about it...how often do you actually see restaurants full anymore?


Dead economy walking.

Lexi3
Lexi3

@middlegrounder "Hollowed out." The most important determinant of middle class economic status is marriage between a man and woman before having children. That holds true for all races. But, for the "marriage is just a piece of paper" crowd, the results are dismal. We have choices.