By  on October 30, 2007

ATLANTA — Lenox Square mall is freshening its luxury recipe with a twist of trend-driven fashion.

A new $53 million wing, including Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Neiman Marcus, combines the high-end retail for which the center is known and hip boutiques that appeal to young consumers.

"Lenox Square has always had luxury stores, but what's lacking is the more contemporary fashion statements for the 20- to 30-year-olds that shop here," said Tisha Maley, assistant vice president of leasing for Simon Property Group, owner of Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, located across Peachtree Street in the city's Buckhead section, 10 miles north of downtown. The malls generate about $1 billion in annual sales.

"Lenox is in the Michigan Avenue model of stores, with a broad, aspirational customer base looking for national and international brands," Maley said. "The Phipps customer is more feminine, discerning, and looking more for fashion than brands, more like the Madison Avenue mix of stores."

The 35,000-square-foot addition was created when Neiman Marcus added 52,000 square feet to its existing 153,722-square-foot store. Construction was finished this fall, with remodeling of Neiman's men's, women's and home areas continuing over the next 12 to 18 months.

Along with Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, the mall wing, extending out from Neiman's third floor, has attracted five stores new to Atlanta. Zara, the Swedish fast-fashion specialty chain, opened a 10,000-square-foot unit. In addition, Diesel, Miss Sixty and True Religion launched in recent weeks, as did Shabby Chic, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based home and accessories line.

The Calvin Klein store, owned and operated by CKI, a division of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., is one of five locations picked for the company's retail expansion of its better-priced Calvin Klein white label. PVH revealed the strategy at its annual meeting in June.

"Atlanta is a young and emerging market," said Tom Murry, CKI's president and chief operating officer. "We were looking for the top five retail locations in the U.S., based on demographics, buying power and consumer patterns in the stores we're in." Murry said sales per square foot for Calvin Klein merchandise in Atlanta department stores, such as Neiman Marcus and Macy's, are above company average, especially for sportswear and jeans. He did not provide figures.The 8,800-square-foot Lenox store is to open in mid-November. The five stores, including Beverly Center in Los Angeles, Cherry Creek in Denver, The Mall at Partridge Creek in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and Natick Collection in Natick, Mass., are a test platform, setting the stage for a rollout of as many as 50 to 75 such stores, Murry said.

PVH hopes to grow the CKI business by an incremental $2 billion to $3 billion worldwide in the next five years, making it into a $7 billion to $7.5 billion global powerhouse.

The five stores have similar design concepts. The high-ceilinged space combines wood, metal and stone in neutral colors, for an ambience that Murry described as "Calvin-esque and iconic as a brand platform, yet welcoming, with rich tactile materials and eye-catching visuals that compel the customer to come in."

The Lenox expansion allowed existing retailers, including Nicole Miller, Sephora, BCBG and Ralph Lauren to expand, often doubling in size with new showcase presentations of complete collections.

Diesel, with 35 U.S. stores, opened its first Atlanta store Sept. 18 and celebrated with a party Oct. 11 at Atlanta's High Museum of Art, where local pop and hip-hop musicians Butch Walker and Cee-Lo served as guest DJs.

"We've been looking at Atlanta for a long time, waiting for the right location, and now, with this wing, near Neiman Marcus, Puma and the Apple store, we've found it," said Francis Pierrel, vice president of retail for Diesel U.S.A. Inc. Sales at the Atlanta store are 35 percent above projections, ranking it among New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas and San Francisco units. Best-selling items are jeans in trendy vintage-inspired washes, priced from $170 to $350, and leather bags, from handbags to small luggage totes, ranging from $400 to $700.

Miss Sixty opened a 2,000-square-foot prototype store that blends the Miss Sixty premium denim-based brand with Energie, its men's line.

"Our Lenox store has had surprisingly strong figures," said Robin Kurkhill, president of retail for Miss Sixty, who wouldn't give specific numbers. "The Atlanta customer is starved for this kind of indie fashion."Dresses have been bestsellers, as the premium denim market has become more competitive, said Kurkhill, and layering pieces have sold well in Atlanta's warm fall weather.

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