By  on February 7, 2007

LOS ANGELES — Junior retailer Forever 21 plans to open a 10,480-square-foot XXI store in the Hollywood & Highland shopping center here in mid-2007, pursuing an aggressive rollout in the Los Angeles metro area, where it operates 28 units.

The newest Los Angeles store will be located on a touristy strip of Hollywood Boulevard, within three miles of existing company units at the Beverly Center and The Grove shopping centers. The XXI concept was originally conceived as a larger-format Forever 21 store; most units measure more than 18,000 square feet.

The privately owned company characterized the store as a new retail concept, although it is more revision than reinvention. Forever 21 already operates 17 XXI stores in nine states and Canada, but will now integrate men's wear into its mix of young contemporary apparel.

"Going forward, XXI will feature an expanded accessories section and will add a full men's line," said Larry Meyer, senior vice president of Forever 21. "Store size will increase to help accommodate the increased merchandise."

The Los Angeles retailer helped invent the concept of fast fashion, producing ubertrendy merchandise at lightning speed. It has had to stay nimble to keep pace with a growing pack of competitors, chiefly Hennes & Mauritz and Zara, two European chains that have opened strongly in key U.S. markets. Last year at the Beverly Center, H&M launched a unit across from Forever 21's three-year-old XXI store.

"We welcome [H&M] as a competitor in this market," Meyer said. "We have competed well with them in other markets."

Part of the company's strategy for staying on top has been to diversify its retail base. In recent years, Forever 21 has started a hodgepodge of retail concepts, including Heritage 1981 — pricier casualwear geared to the Abercrombie & Fitch set — a 40,000-square-foot department store-like Forever 21 prototype and For Love 21, an all-accessories concept that added four new doors in 2006.

Growing all the concepts is a priority for the company, which will launch more than 70 stores and expand another 20 in the next few years. "Our focus is on finding locations for our larger concepts and expanding in better malls," Meyer said.The company, which also is pursuing expansion in smaller, less-saturated markets such as Lynnwood, Wash., and Toledo, Ohio, operates more than 300 locations nationwide, in addition to an estimated 100 Gadzooks stores since acquiring the teen retailer in 2005.

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