Madison Ave retailers lock doors amid daytime crime spree
The outlook for luxury retail in New York is bleak – literally.
Posh shops on Madison Avenue on the Upper East Side dim the lights, lock the doors and open only by appointment in a bid to combat a relentless plague of daytime shoplifters terrorizing the glitzy thoroughfare .
The Carolina Herrera store near 67th Street has been robbed so many times that it now pretends to be closed, with dim lights and a locked door, even during normal business hours.
“It looks closed,” lamented one bride-to-be, hoping to drop six silhouettes across three Herrera dresses for the walk down the aisle and receptions after the ceremony. She noted it’s a “bad look” for one of the world’s most famous luxury shopping districts.
Store workers opened the door after seeing the bride-to-be and a friend looking out the window.
“The normal thing today is to lock our doors on Madison Avenue,” Michelle Singh, sales associate at Carolina Herrera, confessed while pointing to the fashion accessories, including handbags, that turned out to be the target. favorite of a seemingly organized group of shoplifters brazenly snatching luxury fashions off the shelves of the avenue’s boutiques.
Herrera’s chicest handbag, a fashion statement in supple black leather studded with sparkling hand-blown Murano glass from Italy, is said to be a favorite of Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle. It costs $4,500.
Singh was at the center of a recent robbery, when a “normal-looking man in his 40s” got away with “four or five” bags from Venezuelan-American fashion designer and New York resident Herrera. Singh tried to stop the thug from coming out with the hideout, but was encouraged by his colleagues to let him unlock the door and leave lest he turn violent.
“We don’t feel safe,” said store manager Carolina Herrera, who only gave her name as Michael. “You feel violated when they come in.” The store locked its doors “for at least several months” to limit unhindered access.
Nearby Chanel (at 64th) and Prada (at 70th) are also locked during normal business hours, with well-dressed security guards standing by, opening the entrance to potential buyers after observing them at through the door windows. An NYPD patrol car with two officers sat outside Prada on Friday afternoon.
In February, a team of seven thieves broke out of The Real Real on Madison at 71st Street with nearly $500,000 worth of purses and jewelry, in the shopping district’s most brazen daytime heist.
“It really is a model of organized crime,” said Matthew Bauer, president of the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District.
The shoplifters, who are often not prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, are “just the tip of the iceberg” and “following orders” from a much larger crime syndicate, Bauer said.
“These gangs are more aggressive and violent than in the past,” the National Retail Federation reported in its 2021 Safety Survey, noting that 69% of outlets witnessed an increase in organized crime in commerce. retail over the past year.
Bauer’s organization joined other Midtown BIDs this month to demand action from Governor Hochul against the staggering crime spree that is tarnishing New York’s representative for luxury shopping.
The 19th Ward, which includes much of the Upper East Side, reports a dramatic 47% year-on-year increase in grand theft, with 470 incidents so far in 2022, compared to 320 incidents the same period last year. Petty thefts also exploded, up almost 60%, from 709 incidents in 2021 to 1,129 in 2022.
According to NYPD data, there has been a shocking increase in theft in the city, with major theft up 54% and petty theft up 42%. Complaints of shoplifting across the city have jumped 81% in the past year, Crime Strategies Chief Michael LiPetri said in April.
The fallout for shoppers is that a walk down Madison Avenue has lost much of its sparkle and spontaneity. Many retailers now encourage, or even require, shoppers to make an appointment before opening doors.
Westchester’s Peggy Hogan was hoping to see Monique Lhuillier on Madison at the 69th Friday afternoon, but was stunned to learn she couldn’t get an appointment until May 17.
“It’s hard to get in these days,” she said.