clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Which Zara Store Is NYC’s Best?

New, 4 comments
The exterior of a Zara store. Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Yes, Zara is a chain store, but not all chain store locations are created equal. They differ in terms of space, light, the way the clothing is merchandised, and the number of tourists you’ll encounter while shopping. Considering all that and much more, we spent several days this month trying to answer one crucial question: Which Zara store is New York City’s best?

We based our findings on shoppability: How easy is it to get to? How big is the store? Is it difficult to move around in there? What’s the crowd like? How are the lines for the dressing rooms? How long will you have to wait at checkout?

There are a lot of things that affect the perception of which store is the best — what time of day you’re there, whether it’s a weekday or a weekend, or if you’re shopping during a huge sale (as we did).

Using what could be only be described as wholly unscientific research, we gave each Zara location a shoppability ranking on a scale of one to five shopping bags, with five being the best and one being the worst.

Below, a comprehensive look at our findings, and the ever-important verdict.

Flatiron, 101 Fifth Avenue

Visited: Friday, July 8th, 10:30am

Laura: This was a bad place to start. What immediately knocks this place down a notch or two is the layout — it’s a long, narrow, overcrowded hallway. Even though there weren’t a lot of people shopping at this point in the day, maneuvering through the too-close tables and racks is a sport in and of itself.

Channing: Because there weren’t that many people there, I expected the store to a little tidier. It was frustrating to look through cramped racks and paw through messy tables.

Laura: Some messiness should be expected anytime you’re shopping a Zara, and especially during the semi-annual sale. But there’s only so much you can take.

SHOPPABILITY: Two out of five shopping bags.

Photo: Courtesy of Zara

Soho, 503 Broadway

Visited: Friday, July 8th, 12pm

Channing: This was my first time in this store, and it was love at first sight. So bright, so airy, so merchandised. I love when stores tell me what to focus on, because I have such a short attention span.

Laura: As much as people like to knock this store, I have to agree that the new look makes a huge difference — I came to the preview of this store when it opened in the spring and was loving how open this location felt (especially compared to the old one up the block). Even when it gets crowded on weekends, there’s still more space to move around and browse compared to pretty much everywhere else.

Channing: I regret not grabbing a pair of $19 jeans with a frayed hem to experience the "smart dressing rooms" firsthand.

Laura: They’re... not super special? I’ve been here a few times and never used them when I was shopping. But it’s nice that they exist! And that there’s a lot of dressing rooms here!

SHOPPABILITY: Five out of five shopping bags.

Financial District, 222 Broadway

Visited: Friday, July 8th, 12:45pm

Laura: Two words: Lunch break. It was so clear that everyone in here had popped out of their offices to try on something they saw online, or were making returns. Whatever it was, the most noticeable thing in this relatively new store was the checkout line, and that’s not a good thing.

Channing: This store seemed very dark and the way the line cut the store in half, it felt restricting. Upstairs is much better. I think this is around the time when I started finding the men’s section easier to shop — there is a floral windbreaker with my name on it.

SHOPPABILITY: Three out of five shopping bags.

Herald Square, 39 West 34th Street

Visited: Wednesday, July 13th, 4:30pm

Laura: This might’ve been the first time I’ve ever shopped this location, and I immediately noticed that it felt more tourist-y than any of the other stores — yes, even Soho. It’s got a layout similar to Flatiron in that it’s hallway-esque, but it’s definitely wider, and maybe even darker, if that’s possible.

Channing: The line awkwardly snakes in the middle of the store. Together, with the racks in the center of the store, it just feels like too much. But there were a ton of shoes. I wear a size 6, which is usually hard to find in-store, so if I wanted to look for a pair I saw online, I’d start here first.

Photo: Laura Gurfein

Laura: "How easily can you get to it?" is a big factor for me here — strolling along 34th Street is no simple feat.

SHOPPABILITY: Two out of five shopping bags.

Bryant Park, 500 Fifth Avenue

Visited: Wednesday, July 13th, 5pm

Channing: This is my personal favorite, so I’m a little biased. Because I shop here so often, I know to avoid the center displays and stick to the perimeter for the better, newer things, and this method didn’t fail me this visit either.

The store smelled a little weird though, and that was a big distraction for me (they should spray a little bit of the perfume I didn’t know they carried). The crowd isn’t as tourist-y as Soho.

Laura: It’s the location closest to our office, but... I have no feelings about it?

Channing: I know you’re all "meh" about this one, but I have to say, in the 8 o’clock hour, right before it closes, it’s an entirely different and wonderful store to shop.

SHOPPABILITY: Three and a half out of five shopping bags.

Midtown, 666 Fifth Avenue

Visited: Wednesday, July 13th, 5:30pm

Channing: I wanted to join the bored boyfriend’s club waiting on the stairs.

Laura: Sorry, that was my fault — I had to buy this crop top and there was a really long line for the fitting room followed by a really long line to pay. As the woman in front of me pointed out, there were more people on this floor working at the registers for returns than there were for purchases. That’s... just bad business?

Channing: This store seemed exhausting — like any of the chain stores on this stretch of Fifth Avenue — but I did notice there was a distinct merchandised section full of work-appropriate blouses and blazers that stood out in the sea of patchwork fringe jeans.

Laura: Yeah, there’s more room here to play around with having sections like that. Space ranks real high on my shoppability criteria, but this store loses points for being so difficult to get to. Just the thought of working my way through throngs of tourists on Fifth Avenue sidewalks and missing the light to cross at every damn intersection is enough to turn me away from here time and time again.

SHOPPABILITY: Three out of five shopping bags.

Midtown East, 750 Lexington Avenue

Visited: Wednesday: July 13th, 6:30pm

Channing: Nope. You can barely get in the store without having to say "excuse me" to the patient shoppers waiting in line, who were definitely on their way home from work.

Laura: The time we visited definitely has a huge effect on this rating, but you could tell that it would still be tough to find things even if you went right when the doors opened. Everything was just so crammed together — if you’re working with a smaller square footage, can’t you edit the merchandise down just a little bit?

Channing: You can’t get around easily in this store. There is stuff literally everywhere, and not in a good way.

Laura: Having such a sliver of space at ground level and then making your way down to the basement is a little depressing, too.

SHOPPABILITY: One out of five shopping bags.

Photo: Laura Gurfein

Upper West Side, 1963 Broadway

Visited: Thursday, July 14th, 2:15pm

Laura: This is the Zara we’ve been hearing about. The Zara that multiple friends and colleagues have told us is so great because no one shops there. So we started calling it "the magical Zara." Do you think it lived up to the hype?

Channing: Absolutely. For one thing, this location is a little out of the way for tourists. The store felt very spacious even with all of the sale merch crammed onto the racks. I still like Soho best, though.

Laura: Right, it’s definitely the most "neighborhood-y" Zara out there, which is nice. But it’s not big, so I could see see that "cozy" notion quickly turning to "claustrophobia" when you’ve got a few dozen shoppers milling about.

SHOPPABILITY: Four out of five shopping bags.

The Verdict:

It’s Soho, hands down. It’s the newest store in New York, and the fast-fashion retailer has definitely figured out what shoppers need: bright, open space in which to move around. Now, if only the lines for fitting rooms could magically disappear...

Watch: Quantity vs. Quality When Shopping