The value of luxury: America becomes absolutely fabulous

The US has a taste for European luxury goods, as Francois Henri Pinault tells Laura Chesters, and labels like Mulberry and Burberry are betting their shirts on it

The days of gang wars – Miami Vice style – might be long gone but a battle for the luxury brands has led to a three-way tussle, all competing for the 14 million international and domestic visitors to Miami every year

Developer Craig Robins, with a $1bn project in a run-down part of the city, is challenging established luxury locations in a battle for big spenders.

His Design District, with plans for 60 luxury shops, will compete with the queen of the luxury scene, Bal Harbour – an open-air shopping centre bursting with 100 shops, restaurants and perfectly designed tropical hanging plants and koi carp ponds. The third contender is the Aventura mall – a mega shopping district in the north of the city.

Bal Harbour was opened in 1965 and is still owned by the founder and his family – Stanley Whitman. The centre, which is set to open another 30 shops in an extension by 2019, boasts some of the best names in luxury from Gucci to Chanel and is the world’s most productive centre based on sales per square foot of around $3000.

But Mr Robins, who made his fortune redeveloping Art Deco hotels in South Beach, is trying to steal Bal Harbour’s crown.

Mr Robins started buying up properties in the run-down midtown neighbourhood in 1994 and claims to have invested close to £1bn on the project with help from lending banks and an investment from partners such as L Real Estate, a fund in which LVMH is a minority investor.

So far this has paid off as he boasts agreements with Burberry, Hermes and Prada as well as 15 of LVMH's brands and 12 of Swiss group Richemont’s brands.

Gucci-owner Kering is in talks to open some of its brands in the final phase of the scheme. The Design District will open in three phases and should be complete by 2016.

Mr Robins claims Bal Harbour has been too stubborn when dealing with brands. Part of Bal Harbours' success was a clause it made tenants sign up to. Brands opening in Bal Harbour couldn't open stores within a 20 mile radius. For years Bal Harbour had a monopoly.

Bernard Arnault But a deal with Bernard Arnault's LVMH group in 2011 changed everything. LVMH's flagship Louis Vuitton brand decided to quit its store in Bal Harbour when the lease was up and opened in the Design District and Aventura.

This was the impetus for other brands to follow. Louis Vuitton still has a presence in Bal - it has a shop in shop space at department store Saks Fifth Avenue at the centre. But its decision means other luxury names are breaking free of Bal for Aventura too.

Matthew Whitman Lazenby, president and chief executive of Whitman Family Development, says his shoppers love its safe and secure environment and gross sales are up 10% in the past two years.

While the Design District is still situated in a largely unproven area and security is tight at the shops that have opened so far - late night shopping is deemed too risky amid concerns about the surrounding neighbourhoods.

Adding to the mix of luxury shopping developments is a $1.5bn development in downtown Miami which will include 520,000 square feet of shops and restaurants by Swire Properties, Whitman and Simon Properties which will go head to head with Forbes and Taubman and Centers' Miami Worldcenter in Brickell.

But Miami is a hotspot for tourists from across the US as well as South America – particularly Brazil and Colombia. If the tourists keep coming, there could be room for all three.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn