NYC underground retail in bleak state: authority

(Xinhua) 11:12, July 08, 2024

NEW YORK, July 7 (Xinhua) -- The state of retail in New York City's vast underground subway system is bleak, and nearly three-quarters of spaces in the transit network are empty, a downward trend that began before the coronavirus pandemic but was exacerbated by it and the rise of remote and hybrid work, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"For the authority, the surplus of space means a continuing decline in retail revenue at a time when the agency, which runs the country's largest transit system of buses, subways and trains, recently lost a projected 1 billion U.S. dollars in annual revenue with the abrupt cancellation of congestion pricing," reported The New York Times (NYT) on this subject last weekend.

"For travelers, the empty storefronts have created a sense of unease and urban decay. Some doors have been locked with chains, their windows covered with for-lease signs. Others have discarded items like restaurant supplies strewed about. Homeless people have taken over empty corners of retail areas and sleep in stairwells," said the report.

Both former and current shop owners said they were drawn to the subway system because of the large number of riders who could become customers. Last year, roughly 3.6 million people rode the subway every weekday, a captive audience of potential shoppers to buy drinks and food as well as trinkets, gifts and clothing.

Retail owners, especially those not selling food or drink, said rider habits started to change over the past 10 to 15 years. Shoppers started to snap photos of items and say they would just order them on Amazon. More recently, remote and hybrid work dealt another blow, and there are fewer people commuting to work every day.

By the 1980s, there were roughly 350 stores, kiosks and concessions operated by the transit authority. More were built in recent years. Now, there are 195 retail spots, most of them clustered in the subway's busiest and largest stations. "The authority collected nearly 53 million dollars in retail revenue in 2023, down from 72 million dollars in 2019," noted NYT.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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