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Behind The Scenes At Crystals: Secrets, Surprises And Future Plans

June 5, 2012 at 12:28 PM | by | ()

We recently heard a telling anecdote that holds a key to the fortune and future of Crystals, the scrupulously luxury shopping center that also serves as The Stripís gateway to CityCenter. VegasChatter was granted a private tour of Crystals with General Manager Farid Matraki and along the way managed to draw out some exclusive revelations for a two-part overview that might prompt you to take a second look at this Strip must-see.

G.M. Matraki conveys an unrelenting enthusiasm for the complex that he serves, supports and is often moved to call home. Yet, Crystals remains, perhaps, the most misunderstood component of CityCenter. It seems too luxuriant. Too high end. Too, too expensive to survive in this, or any, economy. All those misconceptions are wrong. Over the last year, talking off the record with CityCenter workers, weíve repeatedly heard - no, itís doing very well. We were told, you just donít know the whole story. So, we were more than happy to find out.

Crystals unrepentantly caters to niche customers that expect quality, service and exclusivity. And, can afford it. Really afford it. There are still more than enough individuals to satisfy this form of retail experience. Duplication is determinedly avoided. Thereís only Harry Winston. Thereís only one place to buy sunglasses, ILORI.

It even shifts into a special kind of exclusionary thought. The only denim available within the complex is found at Dolce & Gabbana, Paul Smith and Porsche Design. Subsequently, those stores do very well, just in that particular niche. Unique and exclusive.

A local urban myth revolves around the apparent lack of shoppers seen hauling shopping bags around the center. And how the stores always seem quiet. They seem empty. The myth of no sales must be true. Behind those falsehoods is a secret and conscious methodology for a new form of modern shopping.

Staffers at Crystals are taught to introduce themselves to visitors carrying the centerís shopping bags. They explain who they work for and ask if they would like their purchases to be taken to the concierge of their hotel or down to the valet to be placed in their car. Itís a service conducted with subtlety and grace. And, a subtle twist on the wiles and strategies of modern commerce. A bag-laden shopper is less likely to step inside one last store. And, if they do enter that store, one special customer can make one purchase of such magnitude, any other sales are unnecessary. It happens. More often than youíd think.

The stores do indeed look quiet. And they look empty. Because they are often huge. Thousands of square feet. With 24-foot-high ceilings on the first floor and 18 feet on the second, the stores can easily envelop any number of shoppers. The multi-level Prada store can swallow dozens of visitors. The rows within the Roberto Cavalli store appears a closed warren from the outside. Itís often no wonder you donít notice anyone inside these places.

The Tom Ford store, only his third in the U.S., drifts backwards, each room a different mode, drawing you to the Strip-facing womenís department. You canít see Crystals from back there. You could just as easily be in N.Y. or L.A.

You also canít see too far ahead when you wander around Crystals itself. The walkways are designed with curves, so your destination is anticipatory, not obvious. You donít know what is round the corner. No straight angles creating simple lines of sight, the design standard of suburban malls.

And, comparison to a standard mall is irrelevant. The numbers and scale are simply not comparable. This number of high-end brands simply doesnít exist under one roof, anywhere in the world. Pure intent. They created a one-stop destination for that very special type of person.

Often, it isnít about money at this level of interaction. Mr. Matraki worked for years with LVMH. He was taught if you cater solely to bargain-hunters, you find yourself in competition with everyone else who offers a bargain. Whoíll then do their utmost to undercut you. In this environment, building customer relationships and providing consistency of quality is a key. For those with money and the intention to buy, price has often ceased to factor into the equation.

That doesnít mean that Crystals is exclusionary. Situated in-between The Cosmopolitan, Aria, CityCenter and the pathway to steer you back to The Strip means that thousands of tourists walk these floors. Many would never normally venture into such a rarefied shopping world. Thatís the plan. The serenity of their water features and floral arrangements creates a momentary oasis from The Strip. This writer has noticed that once inside, there is a tendency for rambunctious folks, carrying those over-sized souvenir drinks, to behave. Even so, security is vigilant, present and mindful.

Design factors are integral to the mission. Each shop was encouraged to experiment with originality to match their own identity and also be bold enough to consider looks that are counter or complimentary to Crystals itself. The whites of Crystalís interior coloring are purposeful. It provides a completely bank canvas, that wonít clash with any storefront color palate design.

Sunlight is diffused and directed so not to fade the goods in the windows. And each store window is encouraged to be unique and diverse from their neighbors.

Cartierís exterior was a deliberate shift away from their traditional store frontage and was created to match the Crystals' architectural notes. Weíve previously covered the genuine surprise hidden past Fendiís threshold. Prada contains some semi-futuristic immersions of glass and mirrors. Mr. Matraki himself oversaw the first floor levelís mirrored ceiling. Any minor, visible flaw in the complicated shape was sent back. Repeatedly. Prada matched design motifs of chevrons in carpet and wood flooring, at painstaking expense. Any joins in the long wood wall panelings are masked by fixtures. Bordering on obsessive, itís a trait shared by the Crystals team and many of the ultra-brands themselves.

Recent notable changes includes the opening of Eres swimwear and lingerie boutique and the addition of a lunch time menu at Social House that is starting to attract attention for quality and surprising value. (A prix fixe, three course menu is available for $20 from noon to 5 p.m.)

The March debut of Dolce & Gabbana's new stores provides the anecdote that sets the tone for the future of Crystals. Dolce & Gabbana approached Crystals to open 15,500 square feet of retail, for men and women. An enormous venture, involving dozens of staff. They even created a limited-edition Las Vegas line of clothing for men, exclusive to this store. An equally exclusive watch line is also in the works.

Dolce & Gabbana are very excited about their location and the robust initial sales. But, an important subtext hides in their decision. For all the murmurs and rumors surrounding Crystals as well as its sustainability and profitability in the current economy, this brand came to them and asked to do business. The dialogues between companies at this level, a level of millions of dollars in risk, are founded on trust. Dolce & Gabbana didnít need to come to Crystals. Werenít even asked. They wanted. They saw the potential and the future.

Itís a different world. And, one that absolutely anyone can walk through, right on The Strip.

Tomorrow, in the second part of our report, we'll take a look at a number of changes Crystals is plotting for the next couple of years.

Archived Comments:


What a puff piece this is!!!  Are you sure this isn't a paid advertisement for Crystals?

The entire tone of this article is an extremely defensive "no, Crystals doesn't suck like you heard it did, because of this, this, this and this."

I'd expect an article like this in one of MGM's in-room magazines.  I'm disappointed to read it here.

A Good Walk Through...

I wouldn't say I'm disappointed to be reading it here...I think there's room for this level. I like walking through Crystals and I've made a note to check out the lunch at Social House (didn't know about that)
Prices aside, I've never seen anything in there I'd want to buy anyway but it's an easy cut-through after taking the tram from Bellagio to other places in City Center or...Cosmo...for a slice of pizza!

It seems....

....like this was written by someone other than the usual contributors.  Like a publicist for Crystals.  Was just in there last Wednesday night and felt like I was inside a tomb.  Stepped outside and hundreds upon hundreds of people trotting by.  Nobody coming inside.  I watched for it.  Fluff piece for sure.  What's happening to this column?

Garbage article!

GIANT PUFF PIECE! Seriously Crystals sucks out loud. Walkways that have dead ends, plenty of vacant spots, and rude security that get annoyed if you ask for directions. Id rather waste my money at Fashion Show or the Forum Shops.

Note from the Editor

Our articles are always wholly editorial. We are proud of our voice and that we offer the opinions, observations and finds of half a dozen regular contributors. This particular article was penned by Richard Lane who has been a welcome addition to our team since December.  

To answer the most prominent comment here, the point of the article is that what you see may not be representative of what is actually happening. As referenced in the piece and as voiced in your comments, the general thought is that no people=not doing well. This feature provided an interesting glimpse into the mindset of Crystals, the intent as far as design and a better understanding of why foot traffic volumes may be deceptive. (@vivavegas, they fixed that dead end and added better directional signage.)

It actually is quite intriguing to hear that Crystals is actively whisking away shopping bags, with the unexpected side effect of further underscoring common beliefs. I've shopped online for years simply because I've hated to be laden down with bags and I've hated crowds. I'd shop here in a second if I had that kind of cash. Ok, I'd send my personal assistant here.

Come on, Becca.

This is the last line of part 2 of the puff piece, published today:

"...We are asked to be patient and it will be worth the wait. Crystals continues it's path to never compromise on quality, time or mission."

Ignoring the incorrect use of "it's" for the moment -- do you seriously expect us to believe that this article is "wholly editorial"????

Richard didn't write "Crystals' general manager claims they will continue their path....."

He wrote it as a factual statement.  Again, I ask -- you expect us to believe that this is an editorially independent piece, not paid for by MGM Resorts?

I don't believe that.  Not for one second.  But if it truly is independent, you seriously need some better editors.  The entire tone of this piece (both parts!) reads like an MGM press release or in-room magazine article.