Retail travels

Washington - Explorer

By Karl McKeever | 07.03.17

 Time to play its trump card?


While the media frenzy that surrounds the 45th president of the US and his every action continues to ensure Washington, D.C. is rarely out of the world news, the country’s capital has never really made retail headlines as a city rich in great shopping opportunities.

Being so closely associated with politics, and rich in history – with countless tourist hotspots – it’s little wonder that both have overshadowed the potential of the city as a retail destination. But look closer and there is plenty of retail inspiration to be found across D.C.

It’s no Fifth Avenue, but that’s its charm…

The central part of the city is where you’ll find the tourists, in particular across the wide green open space of National Mall. It’s here that museums and galleries neighbour world famous iconic structures such as the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and America’s most famous residential home, The White House. For me, north of the National Mall, in an area between Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, is a must-visit. It’s an area rich in home stores and dining experiences. A new branch of the popular home boutique store West Elm resides here, along with many independent retailers specialising in textiles, carpets, furniture and rugs. It’s no Fifth Avenue, but that’s its charm – a relaxed area where shoppers can browse and socialise at their leisure.

West Elm – Washington D.C.

But if it’s a wide range retail that you are after you will have to venture further out from the city’s core to Washington D.C.’s shopping malls. A short walk from the Pentagon is Pentagon City, a mall particularly popular as a ‘hang out’ for the local office workers. Here you will find Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Coach and Forever 21 among an abundance of other statement brands. But the biggest and best mall in the area is actually across the Stateline into Virginia to an area known as Tysons Corner.

Coach – Washington D.C.

Tysons One and Tysons Galleria are the two malls that dominate Tysons Corner. It’s a ying and yang of the casual and boutique working together to offer an original retail experience. Tysons One is the older of the two malls, although the largest, and hosts a comprehensive range of department stores, international chain brands and US retailers. Whilst not the newest in design, it’s far from old or archaic, easy to navigate and is well connected to the adjacent Tysons Galleria. Modern and younger in its feel, this mall has an upscale mix of brands including department store Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue along with branches of store chains such as Louis Vuitton, Prada, J Crew and Anthropologie. Yes, the stores are much smaller compared with those in Tysons One, but space is substituted for quality and in turn, the mall offers a much more luxurious shopping experience.

Anthropologie – Washington D.C.

Shops in Tysons Corner open early and stay open late – perfect for the nearby office workers based in corporate towers in the surrounding business district. It’s accessible too: well connected by a new extension to the D.C. metro silver line that takes shoppers to and from the heart of Washington, D.C. The area is also well served for Dulles International Airport, being only five miles away, and offers the perfect opportunity for both commuters and tourists to stop off during their journey.

At first glance Washington, D.C. is a city of political history, corporate workers and beautiful tourist destinations. But in actual fact it also hosts a diverse range of retail. Perhaps its wide range of malls and varied shopping locations can’t reach the high US expectations of New York’s Fifth Avenue, but the city’s retail is alive and kicking. With the declining quality of once staple US retail zones such as Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, combined with the increased media focus on the city that looks set to accompany the Trump-era, retailers in Washington D.C., at least, may be in for some favourable headlines and reviews in the years ahead.


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