Sportswear firm gets bigger showroom

Management consulting firm Monitor Group is leaving midtown for bigger digs downtown. The Boston-based company recently signed a 15-year deal for nearly 50,000 square feet at 140 Broadway, between Cedar and Liberty streets.

The Monitor Group will relocate from its 34,000-square-foot offices at 650 Madison Ave. by the end of January to take the 49th and 50th floors at 140 Broadway. The asking rent was about $65 per square foot.

The firm, which operates 30 offices around the world, advises corporations, nonprofits and governments on a broad range of topics, from aerospace to tourism.

“We’re seeing more and more of these high-quality names coming downtown,” says Bob Constable, the Cushman & Wakefield Inc. executive director who negotiated the deal on behalf of property owner Union Investment Real Estate, formerly known as DIFA. “It gives a lot of credit to the market.”

The Monitor Group searched Manhattan for a year before deciding on this location, says Eric Thomas, a Studley broker who represented the tenant in the deal. He says the firm chose the downtown site partly so it can expand its offices there at a later date.

Fashion firm finds better fit on 7th Ave.

tribal sportswear inc., a fashion house that sells to department stores such as Dillard’s and more than 1,800 specialty stores, is packing up its spring 2008 designs and moving to a new location in the fashion district.

The Montreal-based company recently inked a five-year deal for 3,700 square feet at 530 Seventh Ave., at West 39th Street. The asking rent was $55 per square foot.

Tribal Sportswear, which has operated in the city since 1993, is relocating from 1411 Broadway because owner The Blackstone Group did not offer to renew Tribal’s lease.

“This building is more contemporary, and we wanted a bigger showroom,” says Mark Skluth, a Tribal sales manager.

Grant Greenspan represented property owner Kaufman/Adler Realty in the deal, and Monica O’Toole, a broker with Kaufman Organization, negotiated for the tenant.

Entrepreneurs hope for extended run

sandra henry got into the hair-extension business because she was irked at the industry. A fan of long hair herself, Ms. Henry hated spending hours in the salon chair just to watch her extensions fall out or break off in less than two weeks.

With her own hair-extension business, Candyface International, Ms. Henry guarantees that the strands of blond, brunet and ginger will last at least a month. Her firm imports hair from Europe, Brazil and Malaysia and then cleans and dyes it in-house. Prices for a 200-strand section range from about $200 to $400. For the last year, the business concentrated on selling to salons and stylists.

Now, Ms. Henry and business partner Monique Holness are planning to open the company’s first store, Candy’s Hair Lounge, at 3964 Bronxwood Ave., between East 224th and East 225th streets in the Bronx. The retailers chose the Bronx location for its affordable prices–the asking rent was $35 per square foot for the five-year deal.

Property owner MJB leased the 500-square-foot shop to Candy’s Hair Lounge because the store offers a unique service.

“It will help get the area going,” says Elliott Dweck, a Besen & Associates broker who represented Candyface in the deal. Another Besen broker, Matt Mager, negotiated on behalf of MJB.

How much air is left in Nike’s world-famous Jordan brand?

For Jesse Villanueva, it all started in the fall of 1990 with a pair of black and red high-tops. His first Air Jordans, No. VI in Nike’s world-famous sneaker series, were a gift to himself for making the high school basketball team. He wore that pair out–on and off the court–and every year since, Villanueva, now a manager at a boutique sneaker shop in New York City, has purchased at least one pair of the newest Jordans available. His shoe collection grew so large that recently, to reclaim some closet space after getting married, the 31-year-old had to relocate most of it from his cramped Brooklyn apartment to a rented storage unit a few blocks away.

Selling the new Air Jordan XX3 to diehards like Villanueva, who grew up wanting to be like Mike, is easy. It doesn’t hurt that the shoe, being rolled out in three limited-edition waves over the next few weeks as the latest item in the Jordan franchise, could be the last in the series, an assumption based on the fact that Michael wore jersey No. 23. The harder sell for Nike are the kids who have only ever seen Jordan compete in highlight reels and charity golf tournaments. The former Chicago Bull hasn’t played since 2003 and his prime–if forced to narrow it down–dates back to the early ’90s, when some teens were being “rolled” for their Jordans and others literally killed for a pair. The challenge for Nike, aside from the next-to-impossible task of finding an “Air” apparent, is keeping their 44-year-old retired star relevant.

In an obvious attempt to keep their big money-maker current, Nike has linked Jordan in recent years with several of their other bankable stars: New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter, light heavyweight boxer Roy Jones Jr. and Denver Nugget forward Carmelo Anthony all have their very own signature series of Air Jordans. The key is finding athletes who are “Jordan-like,” says Paul Swangard, the managing director at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. But that isn’t easy, especially considering that Jordan was an athlete whose incredible feats on the court transcended sport and made him an appealing icon to non-fans.

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When Nike signed Jordan in ’84 to a five-year, US$2.5-million deal, pro athletes had been endorsing athletic footwear for some time. Tennis champ Stan Smith, for instance, had been signing his name to a pair of white leather Adidas since 1971. But Jordan changed the sports marketing model. Not even the brightest marketers in the game could have custom-ordered a better pitchman. Oozing charisma, he was as comfortable on the court with Magic Johnson as he was on the big screen with Bugs Bunny. He was generating an estimated US$10 billion of economic activity a year when Nike made the Jordan unit a sub-brand in 1997. And he paved the way for others, like Cleveland Cavalier star LeBron James, who signed a seven-year, US$90-million shoe deal with Nike straight out of high school in 2003.

Today, Nike’s share of the basketball shoe business in the U.S. is an estimated 85 per cent. Last year–four years after Jordan retired–two of the top five-selling shoes in the entire athletic footwear market were Jordans. And yet, many experts think XX3 is the perfect time to tie up the series. “Going out on top of your game is a very good idea” says Matt Powell, an analyst with Sports One Source, a company in Charlotte, N.C. that tracks the sporting goods business. Of course, the end of the shoe line wouldn’t spell doom for the Jordan brand by any stretch. Like it does today, the iconic Jumpman logo will continue to adorn all kinds of sports apparel and accessories. But since Jordan isn’t dunking the ball from the charity stripe anymore, Swangard wouldn’t be surprised if there was a shift from high-performance to high-style.

The brand’s focus, the experts say, will need to be on the myth of Michael. “Become Legendary” is the new tag line, And going forward, there are sure to be plenty of links to the past. This year, in fact, Nike is rolling out countdown packs–each comes with two pairs of retro Air Jordans, their edition numbers totalling 23 (e.g. X and XIII will be packaged together). In the event that XX3 is the final pair of basketball shoes, special editions will likely follow in the years to come, keeping sneaker freaks happy and stretching Jordan’s iconic status well into old age, says Robert Kozinets, a marketing professor at York University, who compares the 14-time all-star’s global appeal with that of Elvis and Marilyn. Jordan, at middle age, may actually be redefining the industry yet again. If Nike handles it well, Jordan could become sport’s first immortal brand–one that gets even stronger the further his playing days fade from memory.