Colossal SoHo department store Pearl River Mart will likely close up shop at the end of the year due to a severe rent hike and changing retail climate for Chinese goods.
Company president Ching Yeh Chen told Metro their landlord is planning to raise their rent to $500,000 from $100,000 a month after their lease expires in December. The three-story, 30,000 square foot store sells about 15,000 different products, including paper lanterns, shoes, home decor and fabrics.
The story was first reported by Crain's New York.
“Rent is only one of the major reasons,” Chen said. “If we keep doing the way we’re doing, a lot of people and large overhead, selling relatively inexpensive goods, there’s no way you can survive.”
Chen said the next chapter for Pearl River, if there is one, will be a smaller space and focus on selling through their website, pearlriver.com.
When Pearl River opened in 1971, they were the only Chinese importers in town. The store, then called “Chinese Native Products,” was started by immigrants and student activists. Their first shipment of goods via Hong Kong was the first time Chinese goods arrived in America in the previous 20 years, due to a direct trade ban.
The store relocated a few times and landed at 477 Broadway in 2003. The store employs 40 people, and the owners will continue to negotiate with landlords and look for a new storefront.
“If we have to close, let it be closed,” Chen said. “We have done what we’re wanted to do for 40 years. We’re satisfied and proud of what we have done and enjoyed the entire process.”