museums&MORE Fall 2008
Sky High Sales

Four million visitors a year flock to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building to gaze out across the New York City skyline. Filled with the awe-inspiring feeling they experience as they move about the Observatory Deck, guests want to be able to take a piece of it with them. That’s where Empire: The Store comes in. The building’s gift shop moved from its previous location on the Observatory Deck of the 86th floor, which had been in operation since 1991, to its very own space on the 80th floor.

The old store floated on the Observatory Deck,” Senior Vice President of Retail for HMSHost Joan Ryzner said.

“Now we have a proper store with 3,000 square feet of selling space to better serve the approximately four million visitors that come to the Observation Deck each year.”

The construction of the new store is part of the Empire State Building’s plan to make the building a themed experience focused on education.

“Our motto (at HMSHost) is ‘Making the Traveler’s Day Better,'” said Senior Director of Communications and Public Relations Susan Goyette. “We hope when visitors depart their tour of the Empire State Building that they can take a bit of their visit home with them.”

“It is not one big change, but a whole new view of how we want the experience for the visitor to be,” Ryzner added.
The new store is architecturally correct and reflects the Art Deco era. Everything from the cabinets to the floors is made from high-end products, which gives the store the environment of an upscale museum store.

“What is unique about the store, product aside, is the environment from the front to back when you walk in,” Ryzner said. “You are immersed in graphic images around the Art Deco area. There is a high energy.”

Because the store itself is made from the best products available, Empire: The Store is able to sell a higher level quality of products.

“The products reflect the experience and are educational,” Ryzner said.

According to Ryzner, the average check per customer is up 35 percent from what it was in the old store. One of the top-selling areas of the store is the Lewis Hein collection, who is the photographer who documented the building of the Empire State Building. This collection includes photos, frames, stationery, mugs, and women’s fashion T-shirts. Another best-selling item is a coffee table collectible book of pictures, which retails for $110. This book documents the history of the Empire State Building from when it was being built, until today.

The store not only reflects the Empire State Building’s long history, but also its Hollywood claims to fame. To celebrate this, the store has “Independence Day,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “King Kong” collections.

“We’ve had a great response to the ‘King Kong’ collection,” Ryzner said. “It shows the humorous side to the Empire State Building.”

Most of the products in the store are proprietary to the Empire State Building. Visitors want to find something at Empire: The Store that they cannot find at any other store in New York City, Ryzner said. This retail destination combines Art Deco era architecture with high-end products, creating a top-notch shopping experience rooted in tradition and education.

“Visitors to the world’s great destinations want a shopping environment that is easily integrated into their overall tourism experience,” Ryzner said. “We redesigned the retail space to delight visitors with the spirit and excitement of the Empire State Building and the great city of New York.”

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