The Sunshine Economy: The High Price of Luxury In South Florida Retail

Aug 28, 2013

Credit Tom Hudson

One square foot is not a lot of space. You can fit a pair of shoes in one square foot. But, if you are a luxury retailer at Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Harbour, you sell $2,800 worth of merchandise per square every year. That's six times what the average shopping center generates in the same amount space.

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Notice the word shopping center. Bal Harbour tenants do not consider the shopping destination a mall. The listing of shops looks like it was ripped from the advertising pages of Vogue: Chanel, La Perla, Stella McCartney and Torch Birch.

Bal Harbour Shops' Matthew Whitman Lazenby stands above the model of the planned expansion of the shopping center.
Credit Tom Hudson

These are not names for the value-seeking or price-conscious customer. And that's been Bal Harbour Shops' strategy since it opened in 1965. Matthew Whitman Lazenby, the grandson of its founder, hopes to continue with a growth strategy that includes increasing the size of the center by about 50 percent.

If you don't shop at Bal Harbour Shops, you probably live in and around Miami-Dade County. That's because about four out of five shoppers at the center are considered visitors. And by visitors, Lazenby not only means people from Boca Raton, but also tourists from Brazil and Belarus.

As he puts it to the Sunshine Economy: "This shopping center depends upon its tourist base."