By  on June 8, 1994

NEW YORK -- Saks Fifth Avenue hears wedding bells.

The Fifth Avenue flagship opened a new bridal shop Tuesday that is being managed and merchandised by I. Kleinfeld & Son, the well-known bridal store in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.

Kleinfeld will also run the bridal shop in the Saks Atlanta branch, in Phipps Plaza. It is being renovated and should reopen this month.

Under a leasing pact, Kleinfeld will stock bridal gowns, bridesmaid dresses and accessories, staff the two shops and handle alterations. Among the designer labels to be featured: Carolina Herrera, Arnold Scaasi, Christian Dior, The Diamond Collection, Amsale and Richard Glasgow. The Kleinfeld name will not be attached to the shop.

"For the past couple of years, we have been exploring expansion ideas," said Yorem Arieven, co-president of Kleinfeld. "This is our first."

But maybe not the last. He said freestanding stores and the acquisition of bridal stores, which would spread the Kleinfeld name, are being considered. Three years ago, Saks nearly divorced itself from the bridal business.

"We closed bridal shops in six or seven stores, narrowing the business to two stores," said Philip Miller, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks. "But we've always had an interest in serving brides and have a nice following on Fifth Avenue and in Atlanta. We see more potential."

Miller said the 1,500-square-foot third-floor shop could double or triple its annual volume to $2 million to $3 million. Next year, the space may be enlarged to 2,000 square feet, he said.

Market observers noted that many department stores have dropped the bridal business and that even Saks, which has stayed with it, has had limited offerings recently. The marriage with Kleinfeld could turn it around.

According to Arieven, "It's very service-oriented business, and planned and bought differently from ready-to-wear. You're buying mostly samples. Most department stores couldn't handle it."

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