On the Las Vegas Strip, retail remains on the rise

The Wynn and Encore on Las Vegas Boulevard are shown on Sept. 30, 2015. In February 2016, Wynn Las Vegas announced plans for a two-story shopping center addition that will nearly double the amount of retail space already available at the resort and its sister hotel, Encore.

The wave of retail development that has swept the Strip in recent years is showing no signs of stopping.

Wynn Las Vegas proved as much this week when it officially announced plans for a two-story shopping center addition that will nearly double the amount of retail space already available at the resort and its sister hotel, Encore. Called Wynn Plaza, the new development will offer more than 75,000 square feet of luxury retail space inside a building designed with Paris’ Avenue Matignon in mind.

It’s not clear exactly what the shopping options will look like, but the resort has promised “an assortment of prestigious retailers” that will offer the same sort of “exclusive shopping experience for which Wynn is known.” The resort also has said that its new retail development would add to the “iconic brands” that already occupy Wynn and Encore, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Alexander McQueen and Givenchy.

Clearly, then, Wynn Plaza will be situated firmly among the higher end of Strip shopping experiences — more like Crystals than Miracle Mile Shops. Still, the Wynn project will have plenty of big-name retail neighbors within walking distance, with both Fashion Show Mall and Grand Canal Shoppes essentially across the street to the west and south, respectively.

Wynn Plaza also joins a lengthy list of retail-related additions that have come to the Strip over the last few years.

Caesars Entertainment Corp. about two years ago opened the Linq, a $550 million promenade that includes a range of restaurants and retail. Grand Bazaar Shops, another open-air shopping and dining area, opened in front of Bally’s last year. And MGM Resorts International is about to open its $100 million Park, a dining and entertainment district in between New York-New York and Monte Carlo, in early April.

Those developments don’t even account for the CVS or Walgreens outposts that have sprung up in the resort corridor, including at Treasure Island and near SLS Las Vegas. Another CVS is under construction in front of Bally’s.

With so many places for Strip tourists to spend their dollars for shopping and dining, retailers have to work harder than ever to differentiate themselves.

“Everything is becoming niched out,” said real estate broker Matt Bear, of CBRE Group. “The approach has changed to provide more options and better service, but give you more reasons to come back to Las Vegas because you didn’t try X, Y or Z restaurant or shopping center.”

In 2014, the average Las Vegas tourist spent $149.77 on shopping, up noticeably from $122.80 in 2010, according to GLS Research. And they spent $281.88 on food and drink in 2014, compared to $256.82 in 2010. At the same time, the proportion of visitors who gambled fell from 80 percent to 71 percent.

As tourists have shifted more of their focus toward shopping, dining, drinking and entertainment, it’s not just the resort operators that have expanded their retail and restaurant offerings — linchpins such as Fashion Show and Miracle Mile have made big changes, too.

Fashion Show debuted a 22,000-square foot addition late last year that made room for new restaurant spaces, retail cabanas and a “very lush, newly landscaped pathway” along the Strip, said mall spokeswoman Janet LaFevre. Fashion Show also gave the clothing store Zara enough room to triple the size of its location.

Similarly, Miracle Mile has embarked on a 60,000-square foot renovation that includes restaurant space and a makeover of the last exterior portion of the mall’s old North African-themed decor. A Buffalo Wild Wings has opened in the renovated space, and the mall signed a lease with Hot N Juicy Crawfish, but work is ongoing, according to Wendy Albert, Miracle Mile’s senior director of marketing.

Albert said the mall hadn’t been squeezed by the proliferation of Strip retail. That's because operators have done a good job making sure they’re all “offering something a little bit different," she said.

“We welcome any new shopping spaces, and really believe that a high tide raises all ships,” Albert said.

In any case, the expansion of shopping and dining has at the very least produced an effect on the physical dynamic of the Strip — particularly by encouraging more of the foot traffic to stay outside.

That evolution brings its own unique challenges. Bob Morse, Caesars’ president of hospitality, said his company “learned a lot” during the Linq’s first sweltering summer, so it decided to add misters. He said the move made a big impression on customers.

“It certainly doesn’t make it so you can stand outside for three hours when it’s 105 degrees,” Morse said. “But when you are walking down Las Vegas Boulevard and you’re looking down the Linq and you see misters going … even if you don’t even have any interest in shopping, you turn down there just to go get cooled off.”

The promenade is situated in between two Caesars hotels, the Flamingo and the Linq. Morse said the Flamingo “had its best year ever last year” and that the Linq hotel did well, too. It’s no coincidence that both are attached to the promenade, Morse said.

Wynn Plaza won’t be the last big shopping development that tries to find similar success, and it’s not clear at what point the market might become too retail-saturated. However, local businessman Barry Fieldman, who developed Showcase Mall, said it could get there if companies built too much without adding a proportional amount of attractions to lure more shoppers to town. He said some developments have done that, but others haven’t — and that’s a risky move.

“If you take a bucket of water and you share it with four people, and you take the same bucket and share it with eight, everybody gets less,” he said.

The key to avoid killing the Strip’s “golden goose,” he said, is to “add to the pie” by also building things that attract new customers. He said MGM’s T-Mobile Arena should do the trick for the Park, and that even bigger developments — like a 65,000-seat football stadium proposed by Las Vegas Sands — would work as well.