When the United States took control of the port city of New Orleans in 1803 following the Louisiana Purchase, the city once dominated by European settlers became populated with an influx of English-speaking residents. The boundary between the old and new neighborhoods was Canal Street, and merchants quickly took advantage of this strategic location to cater to the emerging fine-retail market.
Sprawling department stores like D.H. Holmes and Maison Blanche prospered because of the high demand for luxury goods during this period of economic growth. Well-to-do transplants from New York City and elsewhere established themselves as prominent figures in New Orleans. They would dispatch their servants to have furs, custom-made hats, French perfumes and all manner of fine things they had come to expect delivered to their stately mansions. The timeline of retail development on Canal Street mirrors that of Times Square, which was named in 1904, and both were part of the heyday of department store culture.
Retail development on Canal Street mirrors that of Times Square
Once known as “the mall,” Canal Street would continue to change its landscape due to a fire in 1892, a massive exodus to the suburbs that spanned decades, and shifting trends in the shipping industry that continue to this day. By the 1984 World’s Fair the banks of the Mississippi River at the beginning of Canal Street had been transformed to a promenade that allowed for riverfront attractions.
In 1983 Canal Place opened which today houses a three-story Saks Fifth Avenue. While Saks still caters to prominent New Orleans families with its personal shopping services and pricey designer goods, the store also offers a great opportunity for savvy shoppers to partake in the opulent experience of a swank and fully contemporary department store. Visitors can get a makeover at one of the fine cosmetics counters like MAC (inquire about minimum required purchase), sample fine fragrances, and check out the sale sections. Salespeople at Saks follow the hands-on approach of retailers in department stores of yore, and are willing and able to provide their advice and guidance. Try on the latest Nicole Miller sheath dress, peruse what seems like a city block-sized section of Fendi bags, and take in the gleaming, sumptuous aisles of the most sought after designer labels in the world.
Once you have a taste for the good life you can really take a bite out of it at The Outlet Collection at the New Orleans Riverwalk. Established after the 1984 World’s Fair, the Riverwalk is another example of the construction that took place during the time the New Orleans Riverfront was being developed. The Outlet Collection’s Neiman Marcus Last Call Studio, for instance, features apparel by luxury designers from Alexander McQueen to Zac Posen but at a fraction of suggested retail prices. Here you’ll get that Nicole Miller dress as well as heavily discounted Badgley Mischka pumps and still have money left over for a Neiman Marcus brand clutch. Don’t forget to check out the fragrance section for gift sets like Elizabeth Arden’s three-piece Millennium perfumes — a perfect fashionista souvenir.
A pleasant one-hour drive from New Orleans is Gulfport, Miss., home to Gulfport Premium Outlets located within 20 minutes of the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. The outlet boasts more than 70 stores offering discounts up to 70 percent off, as well as special discounts to military families. A shopping haven for the entire family, Gulfport Premium Outlets provides complimentary wheelchairs and even has a playground for children. Here you can find jeans for your teens at Gap, Aeropostale or American Eagle. If you’re looking for purses you’ll find classics from Fossil and Coach, as well as general retailers including Handbags and More, which constantly update merchandise to reflect the latest trends. Before heading to the nearby beaches, pick up True Blue Spa’s cooling sunscreen mist from Bath & Body works and surf-ready swimsuits from Pac Sun.
While the historic shopping district within the French Quarter lives on in the specialized boutiques that line its narrow streets, the areas in and around New Orleans have evolved into a metropolitan mecca of high-end merchandise. Savvy shoppers can take advantage of the ideal climate, prestigious luxuries and relaxed atmosphere to find all of the fineries that accommodate their lifestyle and budget whether the retail venue of choice is tucked on the banks of the Mississippi River or located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Just as it was 200 years ago, New Orleans is a place that caters to every walk of life. And if you can’t find it, just ask. Chances are a local can help steer you in the right direction to the high-end retail venue of your shopping dreams.