It’s no secret that Southern Nevada’s shopping complexes, both standalone and within our resorts, are doing a booming business. Millions of square feet of new retail space have or will open in the Las Vegas area in 1999 and 2000. The trend: decidedly upscale.
The Forum Shops at Caesars, which has grown to more than 500,000 square feet of retail space, leads the nation with annual sales per square foot — in excess of $1,200. Groundbreaking is imminent on a 250,000-square-foot expansion, which, by early 2002, will take the Forum Shops out to the Las Vegas Strip and add an additional 25 internationally-recognized specialty retailers. Another Las Vegas staple, The Fashion Show Mall, will increase its total size to about 1.8 million square feet this year, according to The Rouse Co. and TrizecHahn Corp., the mall’s owner and developer.
Las Vegas has undergone a market metamorphosis, and the markets within our markets — the shopping venues located within the megaresorts — have morphed as well. Going beyond the unexpected, these shopping areas have surmounted the simple buy-and-sell exchange and have become “experiences.” Witness the Forum Shops’ Roman statuary that comes alive hourly at the Festival Fountain. At The Venetian’s Grand
Canal Shoppes, 65 retailers cluster around replicas of Venice’s Grand Canal and St. Mark’s Square. Here, shoppers can take a break to ride in a gondola.
In Paris’ shopping “district,” the Rue de Ia Paix, you can browse through 31,000 square feet of boutique-like Parisian shopping, including a boulangerie that would rival those of the motherland.
As with other Las Vegas shopping experiences, customers are transported to a destination, an experience that is part entertainment, part pure consumerism. It’s a heady, and profitable, way to shop. Even Via Bellagio, while less overtly theatrical than the other new megaresorts’ shopping districts, rivals Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive.
Industry insiders are anticipating Desert Passage, the new Aladdin’s $300 million, 500,000-square-foot shopping mega-complex, will nip at the heels of the Forum Shops’ record revenues when it opens this summer. Desert Passage will travel ancient trade routes from Spain, across Northern Africa and to the Arabian Sea. Along the routes are more than 130 shops — among the largest collection in Southern Nevada. Late last year, Desert Passage’s developers reported more than 80 percent of the retail space had been leased.
Who led the revolution? The majority of the large retail developments have been built into the megaresorts, although outlet malls, such as Belz Factory Outlet World and Primm’s Fashion Outlet Mall, are also doing very well with local and visitor traffic. The world’s leading retailers have recognized that Las Vegas, with nearly 34 million annual visitors, is a very good place to do business.
And for Las Vegas, the changing of the guard from souvenir and trinket shops to world-class retail venues means job opportunities for our workers, business opportunities for our entrepreneurs, prospects for outside investment, diversification for our economy. For those whose primary business is the domestic and international marketing of our destination, what the up-scaling of Las Vegas’ shopping establishments means is a better, more robust and interesting product to sell. Our message: Las Vegas is open for business.