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Julie Latsko: Chicago’s latest store openings make it a retail heavyweight

Julie Latsko

Julie Latsko

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Updated: November 25, 2012 11:37AM

Before you plan a shopping trip to New York, take a walk around Chicago’s newest shops. You might reconsider buying that airline ticket. These days, when retailers think expansion, Chicago is often on the top of the list. In the last year, retail outlets ranging from couture houses like Lanvin to big-box stores like Target have decided to call downtown Chicago home.

When Target decided it wanted to open locations in urban areas, State Street was the first stop. CityTarget opened in July with targeted (forgive the pun) merchandise for the city dweller. The big-box retailer scaled down its retail space and went upscale in location, choosing one of Chicago’s retailing landmarks, the Carson Pirie Scott building.

Meanwhile the Gold Coast is experiencing a retail bonanza. Vera Wang led the way last year, opening a 5,000-square-foot space above Hermès on Rush. The designer has such high expectations for her Chicago location that the shop carries a full line of her couture wedding gowns, just like the brand’s New York headquarters.

That’s just the beginning of a recent shopping boom. In August, Atlanta sportswear company DEKA launched its “athletic fashion house” in The 900 Shops. In September, London-based luxury retailer Eskander opened its third U.S. location in Chicago on Walton. Marmot outerwear recently opened in the Gold Coast, eliminating the need to travel to Aspen or Park City to stock up for the ski season. Luxury label Lanvin is opening its sixth U.S. location on Oak Street, and British brand Mulberry is considering Chicago as a location for its international expansion.

While new, stylish names are certainly welcome, many known retailers that have called the Windy City home for years are expanding their presence here also. In late September, Niketown reopened on Michigan Avenue after a six-month facelift. Nike originally came to Chicago in 1991, and now it looks better than ever with a host of exclusive-to-Chicago merchandise. In August, the Michigan Avenue Coach store reopened; Coach is using the revamped location to test a new store-design concept.

But the new fashion goldmine garnering the most buzz is the old Esquire Theater, which has leased much of its Oak Street space to high-end designers. Christian Louboutin will take up 1,000 square feet (a star-studded opening is already in the works). Buccelatti is also slated to come to the Esquire, and retail-rumor has it that Tom Ford might make an appearance in the theater, too.

So, fellow shopping lovers: Go ahead and travel to New York for a Broadway show or a carriage ride around Central Park, but if it’s a retail fix you need, there’s no need to leave home.

Julie Latsko has donated her fee for writing this column to the Chicago Children’s Museum.

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