As I write this, we are at the end of the year, a year that can be best described as "difficult". We are entering, the Christmas shopping season, which has been predicted as being "difficult" as well, and not very profitable. However, now, two days after the Thanksgiving Day weekend, which includes "Black Friday," the biggest shopping day of the year, the sales results have been better than could ever have been hoped for: up 12.4 percent over the same period last year. Sales even topped those of the year before, 2000.

This has been attributed to cold weather, heavy promotions, and, may I add, the unwavering confidence of the consumer, which seems to defy a multitude of things: the uncertainty of the times, the threat of war, unemployment, unpredictable stocks, terrorism. No matter, shoppers have kept on shopping, perhaps in a different pattern than previously, but they kept on. We have two weeks and three weekends now to go until Christmas. If the momentum holds, the season will be a delightful surprise. I think it will.

Retail leasing in New York in the later part of 2002 was also a delightful surprise, in much the same way. One would expect because of the uncertainties of the times, there might be a falling-off, a slow-down, but not so. Things have never been busier. In fact, it hasn't been like this since 1999. The following are just some of the goings-on that have happened during the last months:

Let's start with Fifth Avenue - Luxury- Walk - where it's getting more luxurious all the time, for Bugs is gone and Mickey perhaps will follow: Asprey is tripling its space in Trump Tower. There will be diamonds on the corner of 55th Street.

DeBeers LV is taking the Louis Vuitton space. Further down the block, replacing Club Monaco, who has moved to West 57th Street, will be the fabulous jewels of Boucheron. Ermenegildo Zegna took Salvatore Ferragamo's space: Ferragamo took Banana Republic's.

Faconnable is replacing Sephora at Rockefeller Center. Anne Fontaine has already opened there. American Girl will take the Staples space, across from Saks.

Solstice will be on the Avenue and Reem Acra will be just off Fifth, on East 60th Street.

In the fashionable Flatiron District, on Fifth, Searle has opened in the Country Road location, Coach has also opened, and Armani A/X will be soon to follow.

Now, Madison Avenue, also known as the Golden Mile, where the mile got longer and more golden, if that's possible: Dolce and Gabbana expanded and renovated as did Emporio Armani. Akris expanded next store, taking over Sergio Rossi.

Sergio Rossi moved to Iceberg's location. Miu Miu replaced Genny. Leggiadro went to the Carlton House where Creed opened another store and Aaron Basha expanded. Mallet of London came to Madison. Gucci replaced Sulka, Mont Blanc, and James Purdey & Sons. Technomarine took Breitling's place.

Barneys opened The Foundation, a beauty and bath paradise on the concourse level. Montmatre has opened. Moreschi took one Bostonian spot and Clark's, another. Vera Wang expanded. Plein Sud took over the two Joseph stores. Joseph took the old Joan & David. Charles Tyrwhitt from London opened its first U.S. shop. Other arrivals on Madison Avenue: Royal Chie, Cecile Jeanne, Herye Leger, and the Dahesh Museum.

Via Spiga moved as did Fogal, still on the Avenue. Roche Bobois has a brand new store. There is talk that Jurlique is coming...

57th Street, the link between Luxury Walk and the Golden Mile: Audemars Piguet, Shiseido, KC Thompson, Jil Sander, and Maurice Villency opened on East 57th, while MacKenzie Childs, along with Club Monaco, opened on West 57th.

Then there's Soho, poor old Soho, devastated, abandoned - not hardly. Soho, where Bloomingdale's will open in the very near future. Other stores that have opened or are opening shortly: La Perla, adidas Originals, Costanca Basto, Pearl River Mart, Sharper Image, Crate & Barrel, Natuzzi, Fort Street Studio, Flou, Vespa, Levis, Robert Marc, American Eagle, D'Fly, Agnes b. and baby, Rug Company, Barry Kieselstein-Cord, Heun, Agent Provocateur, Sylvia Heisel, Marni, John Hardy, Anya Hindmarch, Puma, Calypso Homme, Mix, Teno. Afterlife has renovated and Henro Antiques moved from Broome to Crosby.

Things are looking up in Soho.

In Nolita, Soho's next door neighbor, the new arrivals are Crumpler, Lilith, Edmundo Castillo, Cadeau, Prohibit, Saigoniste, The Apartment, Dinosaur Designs, and Mariebelle.

The Meatpacking District, right now, is chic-er than chic. There, one finds Stella McCartney, Alexander McQueen, Yiga Azrouel, Carlos Miele, Rubin Chapelle, Bumble & Bumble, Vitra, Juliana Cho, Scoop NYC, Tipton Charles Apothecary Shoppe, Ceylavie, a mini-mall in a brownstone. Rescue Beauty Lounge, Sally Hershberger, hairdresser to the stars, and Hotel Gansevoort, scheduled to open in the near future.

On the other side of town, on Columbus Circle, less than 12 months from opening, is the magnificent AOL Time Warner Center. To describe in detail this incredible mixed-use development in all its glory would be a story in itself. However, retailers at the Center will include Stuart Weitzman, Tourneau, Hugo Boss, Cole Haan, Joseph Abboud, J. Crew, Eileen Fisher, Armani A/X and Trusssardi's first New York store, among others.

There are new arrivals on Times Square as well: Hershey, Footlocker, Champs, Skechers, Quiksilver. Adidas is looking ...

This is only a partial list, for I could go on and on. There is every indication that The new year will begin with a flurry of activity, and with no hint of slackening. The new year, 2003, holds many promises -promises of more excitement, bigger and better deals - a year that will probably surpass any we have known.

Faith Hope Consolo
Chairman, Retail Leasing & Sales Division
Prudential Douglas Elliman
Tel: 212-418-2020 / Fax: 212-418-2005