By Jessica Hoch
Downtown Portland will try to inject the fun back into shopping this fall by joining a host of worldwide cities to indulge in a “Fashion’s Night Out” of events, fashion shows and parties to showcase downtown retail.
The event was created last fall in New York city in coordination with Vogue and others including the Council of Fashion Designers of America to lure back shoppers who have kept their plastic hidden since the recession hit.
Portland will feature its own version of the fashion celebration on September 10 and it’s free and open to the public. Events will include a public fashion show in Director Park as well as an after-party in the Nines Hotel. Free-standing stores such as Nordstrom, Macy’s and Banana Republic will host in-store events as will many Pioneer Place retailers including J. Crew, Kate Spade, and Betsey Johnson amongst others. The in-store activities will start at 4:00 p.m and the after-party will go from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Portland will join cities such as New York and San Francisco as well as international fashion meccas in Italy, Britain and Spain that will each celebrate on a night between September 7 and September 16. CBS will also feature a one-hour on the worldwide event special September 14. Each of the cities was free to add in local flavor and personalize the event, so Portland added free pedicab rides from the fashion show to the retail stores.
After losing over 3,000 jobs in downtown Portland in 2008 and only gaining back 300 in 2009, retail, amongst other sectors, was hit hard in the recession, and cautious spenders aren’t expected to dole out cash this fall for back-to-school shopping either. The hope with Fashion’s Night Out is to create more of the downtown vibe that was alive before the economy dove.
“It felt like last year people were on a spending diet, and so we wanted to create an event that made the public know that shopping is fun again and that even if you don’t spend money you can still go and enjoy the art and design for the entertainment value,” says Lisa Frisch, the downtown retail development manger for the Portland Business Alliance. “Plus it helps puts Portland on the map as a fashion destination.”
Fashion’s Night Out in Portland is put on by the City of Portland, Downtown Marketing Initiative and the Portland Business Alliance. The event is part of the Downtown Retail Strategy initiated by Mayor Sam Adams last year to clean up empty store-fronts along the downtown signature streets of Morrison and Yamhill.
Retail in Portland suffered a big blow with the Saks Fifth Avenue announcement in March that it would close its 60,000 square foot main store and men’s location in Pioneer Place. In place of the men’s location will be the Swedish fashion clothier H&M to open this fall, a fast fashion store with inexpensive designs, and a growing international label.
Retail is crucial to Portland’s tourism industry, an industry which brought in an all time high $3.75 billion in 2008. The industry dropped in 2009, but 2010 is stabilizing and the market is expected to rebound and experience slow positive growth through 2011, according to a report from the Heritage Consulting Group. Downtown pedestrian counts were up in June compared to results over the last two years, a positive sign, yet it doesn’t signal that shoppers are ready to spend. Neither do the empty store fronts still scattered throughout downtown.
But the September event holds promise to bring some much needed vibrancy – and free is always a good price in a down economy.
Jessica Hoch is an online reporter for Oregon Business.