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2011's Five Biggest Retail Conquistadors

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With only a few days left in the year, it's time to look back on 2011 with the annual (five years running!) Racked Recap. This week, we'll be reliving our biggest and brightest (and saddest and darkest) moments, from the best collabs to the most excruciating lines. Up next: 2011's Biggest Retail Conquistadors.

Michael Kors on Madison Avenue

Every year, a few brands decide to approach New York City like it's Mexico in the 1500s and they're Hernán Cortés, swooping in and planting their flags on storefronts across the city. And every year, we acknowledge their empire-building efforts by naming them the biggest retail conquistadors out there. This year, honorable mention goes to Apple. True, the company only opened one permanent store, but it also put up a temporary space in Soho to serve the public while its regular store undergoes renovations. And it refurbished its midtown cube, just to remind all of us about its remarkable design prowess.

5. Tie: L'Occitane and Aesop
They couldn't be more different in terms of products and image, but beauty brands L'Occitane and Aesop do share a zeal for conquest. Flowery French L'Occitane opened stores on the Upper East Side and in the Meatpacking District before debuting a new flagship on Fifth Avenue and 22nd. Meanwhile, science-obsessed Aesop launched in Grand Central, Nolita, and Greenwich Village.

4. Theory/Helmut Lang
The two brands are owned by the same company, and they shuffled locations all over Manhattan this year. First, Helmut Lang opened at 93 Mercer Street with a shared space (technically 93.5 Mercer) for Theyskens's Theory. Next, Theory launched a shop on Madison between 85th and 86th. Then, the Upper West Side's Theory moved a few blocks down Columbus Avenue, and finally Helmut Lang popped up in the space they vacated. Whew.

3. Michael Kors
This was quite a year for Mr. Kors. Not only did he take his company public and marry his longtime partner, but he expanded all over the city, opening a Flatiron District lifestyle store and dramatic new locations on Madison Avenue and in Rockefeller Center.

2. Uniqlo
The Japanese fast-fashion brand really only opened two permanent locations this year: the 34th Street shop and the massive Fifth Avenue mothership. But they celebrated their growth with pop-up shops, street fair booths, and one truly amazing roller rink, colonizing New York's mental space if not necessarily its storefronts.

1. Ralph Lauren
The preppy retailer moved and closed and opened so many times this year that we finally had to make a map to keep up. In the end, seven different locations were affected, making Ralph the retail conquistador of the year. Fitting for a guy who's partly famous for his safari gear.
· All Racked 2011 Recaps [Racked NY]

Uniqlo - Soho

546 Broadway, New York, NY 10012 Visit Website

Ralph Lauren - Rhinelander Mansion

867 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021 Visit Website