Friday, Aug. 9, 2013 | 4:31 a.m.
It’s no secret that gaming revenue has dropped to the 40-percent level of the total money spend in Las Vegas. We have gone from a gambling-based town to a full-fledged, entertainment-driven vacation city with nightlife and pool parties now becoming the vibrant economic engine driver.
There will always be slot machines, roulette wheels, blackjack and baccarat tables, but the days of $1 million betting nights are long gone and replaced by shopping the rich and famous way. Now it’s sky-high price tags for jewelry, fashion and other top-ticket trinkets and treasures.
Demand from visitors around the world is at an all-time high because our prices are oftentimes less than theirs at home. We might do double takes and blink in disbelief at prices here, but overseas visitors are snapping up goods at what they perceive as bargains.
I know of London regulars who make 10 trips a year here to buy from our outlet stores and resell the bargains back in Britain, making plenty of profit and covering the airfares — and getting a Las Vegas vacation every time.
Other Europeans, plus, Asian and Middle East visitors have turned Las Vegas into one of the world’s great shopping destinations. It’s a credit-card bonanza as they spend, spend spend. When MGM Resorts executives proudly flung open in December 2009 the doors to Crystals at CityCenter, Aria, Vdara and more, there was profound fear that their timing was wrong.
Naysayers predicted failure. Competitors said America’s economy was failing so badly that there was no room or need for luxury. Experts said the big-spend days had vanished and that MGM had missed the boat, let alone the luxury yacht.
However, Crystals has gone on to become the Strip’s premiere retail destination and this month will see even more evidence of its success with a slew of store openings. And Valentino, who arrived on his mega-yacht to have lunch alongside me at the oceanfront restaurant Concho di Sogno near Sorrento when I was there in July, is leading the charge.
Crystals Senior Vice President and General Manager Farid Matraki tells me that the growth is increasing not only with the new boutiques, but also one expansion will result in its retailer having its largest store in the world here. In Farid’s words:
“Crystals continues to grow with the addition of the iconic houses of Valentino, Richard Mille, Loro Piana and Rimowa, as well as Tourbillon’s largest store in the world — expanding our collection to more than 40 boutiques.
“As it was originally intended, Crystals is the United States’ first luxury-only shopping center featuring the largest collection of unique-to-market stores in Las Vegas. Without question, it is the place for luxury retail shopping on the Strip.”
He continued: “Some of the world’s greatest brands have opened under our spectacular crystalline roof, including the largest Louis Vuitton store in North America, as well as flagship stores for Prada, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Dolce & Gabbana Men’s and Dolce & Gabbana Women’s, Roberto Cavalli and Ermenegildo Zegna.
“What is truly extraordinary is that we continue to grow the Crystals family with equally spectacular offerings. This summer will mark the beginning of another fashion invasion that would make any fashionista swoon. Early this month, Valentino will open its new boutique featuring the designer’s largest selection of retail items in the city. The store will carry all product categories, including the latest ready-to-wear, handbag and shoe collections.
“Later in August, Crystals will open the first Richard Mille boutique in Las Vegas, making it only the second in the country. The premier watchmaker and jeweler’s store will feature more than 40 watches, each handmade with the latest technical innovation and detailed artistry for which Richard Mille is known. This includes coveted timepieces such as the RM 008 Tourbillon Split Chronograph and RM 018 “Hommage à Boucheron.”
“German luxury luggage-maker Rimowa will open its 2,000-square-foot Las Vegas flagship boutique at Crystals in August, as well. The location will house the largest selection of Rimowa cases available in the city with custom colors such as summer’s newest hue, Ipanema Blue, and exclusive items such at its new leather goods collection.
“Opening this fall, Loro Piana will continue its six-generation legacy of delivering the finest cashmere, wool products and luxury goods from Italy in its 2,500-square-foot location at Crystals. The boutique will showcase the brand’s ‘Gifts’ line, including accessories and products from the women’s, men’s and children’s lines.
“I’m very pleased to recognize Tourbillon’s success at Crystals. The boutique will expand its current location into the brand’s largest location in the world in October, becoming the Las Vegas flagship. The high-end, multi-brand watch and jewelry store will feature collections from the most prestigious names in watch making including Breguet, Blancpain, Glashütte Original, Jaquet Droz, Omega and Swatch.
“Complementing the incredible retailers throughout Crystals, we also recently unveiled a remarkable light installation by internationally acclaimed artist James Turrell that can be experienced from multiple vantage points — seen from afar as subtly changing planes of color or from within an area flooded with light.
“Crystals is an unmatched shopping experience for Las Vegas visitors and locals, and the most recognized brands in fashion continue to choose Crystals as the home for their most luxurious offerings. I look forward to the future of Crystals as these new stores join us.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.
Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.