It’s raining in New York City, and tourists huddle under their umbrellas as they photograph the towering Vessel structure located at Hudson Yards, the City’s newest retail destination. Even against the grey Manhattan skyline, Thomas Heatherwick’s copper-clad Vessel has an ethereal quality that is both captivating and bemusing; a sculptural Escheresque puzzle brought to life in Manhattan’s redeveloped West Side. Despite the pouring rain, crowds of tourists diligently queue to enter the open structure and ascend the rain-soaked staircase. The energy and excitement is palpable and no matter how divided opinion may be surrounding the Vessel, it has clearly become an experience to be owned – and shared – regardless of the weather. This place has a pulse. Yet in the warm and dry surroundings of neighbouring Neiman Marcus, Hudson Yards’ anchor department store tenant, that energy and pulse is noticeably lacking. The opening of Neiman Marcus within Hudson Yards heralds a first for the luxury department store chain who’ve never previously operated an outpost within New York City. The announcement to plant their flag in the Big Apple came with the promise of delivering a world class retail experience to rival its established peers within the city. Yet despite the luxury brands (who are all in attendance), the curated selection of art (the store features original work by Lichtenstein and Matisse) and the store’s scale (17,500 sq metres), the retail “experience” is somewhat thin on the ground. Aside from a pocket of theatre provided by operator Atelier Notify who hand customise items on-site, New York’s Neiman Marcus certainly doesn’t redefine department store retail. Granted it’s a wet Wednesday afternoon, but where is the store’s beating heart? I decide I’d rather queue in the rain.