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Foreign Tourists Fuel Shopping Spree, Retail Boom On North Michigan

North Michigan Avenue. (Credit: Greater North Michigan Avenue Association)

North Michigan Avenue. (Credit: Greater North Michigan Avenue Association)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Chinese and Brazilians are leading a shopping spree that’s bringing new high-end stores to North Michigan Avenue–which is beginning to blossom towards its southern end from Ohio street down to the Chicago River.

Greater North Michigan Avenue president John Chikow says the next boom is coming with retail and restaurants moving into the Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building.

Chikow says for the last four years, most of the expansion has been from Ohio Street north to Chicago Avenue.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody Reports

Chikow says he’s seeing Chinese and Brazilian visitors buying suitcases and filling them up with high end clothes, shoes, electronics and watches for the return home.

Markers of continuing upscale movements, free-standing stores for high-end watches including Rolex, Omega and Tourbillions.

Chikow says Stuart Weitzman shoes and Henri Bendel clothes are also indicators that things are looking good along Michigan Avenue.

Recent store openings in the area: AT&T Flagship, a remodeled Nike store, Burberry and Brunello Cucinnelli.

Chikow says rents reflect the retail success, with a square-foot prices going for $35 back in 2004, to $127 last year and still climbing.

And where retail vacancies stood at 7 percent in 2009, they’re now down to 3.7 percent.

Chikow says retail figures show North Michigan Avenue as the sixth most expansive retail street in the country, right after Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and right before San Francisco’s Union Square.