On the Saturday after Christmas, I went to NYC for a day to check out all of the new retail buzz. First on my list, after stopping into all of my favorite SoHo stores, was Hudson Yards.
I first heard about Hudson Yards sometime in the last year, and figured it was some kind of new shopping mall in NYC. I later found out that Hudson Yards is now its own NYC neighborhood with shiny new skyscrapers dedicated to shopping, living, and working office spaces, and The Shops opened in March 2019. Situated right on the Hudson River, Hudson Yards definitely stands out as a bright and new neighborhood looking to revolutionize that specific area of NYC.
The most notable infrastructure is the staircase that has both an interesting shape and a perfect social media-worthy shot opportunity at the top. When I was there, the staircase was definitely drawing people in, as there were lines just to enter it. I think that this sculpture was definitely a smart move because my guess is that more people head to the area to check that out compared to the shops, and people end up dipping into the shops just because they’re there.
Onto the actual Shops at Hudson Yards, I’ll start off by saying that the shopping center is beautiful. It’s open, filled with natural light, and designed with a clean and contemporary lifestyle in mind, which is something that I’ve never seen in a shopping mall before. The atmosphere isn’t constrained and wouldn’t be overwhelming if you took all of the shoppers out of the equation.
Being that it was the Saturday after Christmas, this place was PACKED. It was what I imagine Black Friday to be like. The first floor, filled with designer stores, was insane and I, someone who can usually handle crowds with lots of pushy people, even felt like I had to go upstairs.
My first complaint is the lack of directories. The directories are touch screens and are very interactive, but there were so few of them, jam-packed with people that I didn’t even bother. At each escalator there were signs that listed about three or four stores on each floor, which didn’t even come close to covering what all was there. I resorted to looking at the store directory from the website on my phone. I also overhead some shoppers complaining about how you don’t even know what stores are in the shopping center.
I’m going to get a few minor complaints out of the way, as well. In this particular building, there were very limited bathrooms. Each had a line that wrapped around the bathroom and out into the halls, and I could only find about one or two per floor. Next, the dining areas were crowded with people with no place to sit due to the limited seating, which made the very few places to eat seem like too much of a bother to go to.
Onto the actual retail experience…
I didn’t have any expectations of what this place was going to be like and didn’t know of any stores in the building other than b8ta because of a podcast it was mentioned on. In terms of the stores that were there, it felt to me like any other slightly-elevated mall. Having a lululemon and Aritzia in my opinion mean that the mall gains enough traction that it is slightly more special than your average suburban mall, but other than that, it had stores like H&M, Zara, Banana Republic, Uniqlo, etc., all of which are stores that I would much rather visit in Times Square or near Rockefeller Center or the surrounding areas where they are standalone stores that contrast with the surrounding buildings.
To prove that it wasn’t just me who didn’t know what stores were there, Zara and H&M were essentially empty on their floor, and both stores were having massive sales, which usually draws in tons of people. Another complaint that I had, which is not a jab at the retail workers anywhere, because I know the feeling, was that the stores were all pretty messy. Uniqlo was essentially impossible to shop and had a terrible layout compared to other Uniqlo’s that I’ve been in, but Zara, H&M, and Banana Republic were all really hard to shop because product was all over the place. It was as if all of these stores had a ton of traffic yet there were never more than 8-10 other people in these stores while I was there.
Overall, if you’re looking for that elevated mall experience, this is almost it. I’d argue that the dining could definitely be improved, but there are plenty of cool sculptures to look at outside of the buildings to make up for that. As a New Yorker that lives outside of the city, I wasn’t blown away enough by this “new mall experience” to ever go back. My favorite part about shopping in NYC is being able to walk around the streets and dip into the standalone stores, specifically those types of stores that aren’t in malls such as Everlane and Outdoor Voices, and appreciate the more limited merchandise and unique architecture of the standard NYC buildings. I guess it comes down to shopping preference, but I wasn’t inspired to do my shopping at Hudson Yards.