By  on August 30, 2005

NEW YORK — The Neiman Marcus Group is cooking up another dish to accelerate its growth.

The country's premier designer chain is expected to test next year a scaled-down version of its luxury stores in a few choice locations, according to three retail and real estate sources.

Neiman's has been negotiating space in the Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles and Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va. The company has also been negotiating for a location on M Street in the Georgetown section of Washington, according to the sources.

They said the format would have approximately 10,000 square feet, at least with initial units, and would be flexible in its merchandising. Depending on the location, some stores could emphasize Neiman's top-priced designer goods; others might focus on contemporary labels, which are not as expensive as designer. An accessories-only store is another possibility.

Neiman's has yet to decide on a name for the chain.

"We're not ready to talk about a new concept at this point in time," said Ginger Reeder, vice president of corporate communications at Neiman Marcus Group.

In the luxury arena, interest in smaller specialty stores has intensified. Aside from the developing Neiman's strategy, Nordstrom this month took a majority stake in designer retailer Jeffrey, and said it may open more Jeffrey stores. There currently are three, including two fashion stores in Atlanta and New York, and a shoe salon in Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Bloomingdale's has been eyeing sites in Georgetown, Miami and Los Angeles, among other locations, to replicate its 79,000-square-foot SoHo concept. Bloomingdale's chairman and chief executive Michael Gould declined to comment on any potential sites, but acknowledged the chain is examining real estate. "There are a lot of opportunities to expand SoHo," to other parts of the country, Gould said. "There is nothing I want to talk about."

Bloomingdale's officials have said future stores modeled after the SoHo concept outside of New York would likely have less space. Located at 504 Broadway, Bloomingdale's SoHo features an assortment focused on contemporary and bridge labels, better and premium-priced denims, cosmetics and accessories. Due to Federated's acquisition of May Department Stores, expected to close this fall, there could be some real estate suitable for the SoHo concept.

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