By  on May 1, 2006

MIAMI — Wal-Mart made the scene in South Beach last week, attracting socialites and fashion trendsetters to its pop-up store.

Women accustomed to shopping at the Bal Harbour Shops elbowed each other as if they were at a sample sale for a coveted designer, scooping up halter tops in bright yellow or pink, cropped jackets with an oversized rhinestone button and wide belts in black or metallics. Within 15 minutes, only one black bubble skirt remained despite employees' efforts to replenish racks. One customer carried her Birkin bag on the same arm as a Metro 7 oversized handbag inspired by Fendi's Spy style.

"I'm dying to see which pieces are most popular," said Deanah Baker, Wal-Mart's vice president and divisional merchandise manager for misses. Modeling a gold metallic knit Metro 7 shrug with crochet detail and kimono sleeves, Baker placed her bets on soft knit dressing, camisoles and other bare tops. She said those items are retailing well nationally, along with neutral colors, knit gauchos and embroidered denim and tunics. Prices range from the midteens to the high twenties.

Along with Metro 7, Wal-Mart's successful trend-driven brand, there were women's accessories and items from the mass retailer's other brands in the 6,600-square-foot, beachfront tent.

Because of the four-day event's charity tie-in with the Miami-based Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, guests at a preview last Wednesday received seven free items, which they put into complimentary white canvas totes trimmed in silver and bedazzled with Metro 7's logo. All sales of Metro 7 merchandise at the tent will go to the Buoniconti Fund.

"It's a shopping orgy in here," said Haim Dabah, chief executive officer of Pacific Alliance, the New York manufacturer of Metro 7.

Jean Srour, Wal-Mart's vice president and divisional merchandise manager for women's sizes, spent the day touring Wal-Mart stores in Hialeah, northwest of downtown Miami. "The brand's success here is amazing," she said.

Florida is among the top three states for Wal-Mart, along with California and Texas, in terms of the number of locations that carry Metro 7, which launched in the fall. The brand is sold at 1,000 stores in the U.S. including 51 in Florida. Baker estimated the total figure would increase to 1,500 by September."What better place is there than South Beach for the brand's trendy, body-conscious image?" said Baker, as models in silver HotPants and Metro 7 tanks circulated.

Dayanara Torres, the former Miss Universe who is Metro 7's spokesmodel, arrived wearing a white, floor-length halter dress and set off a sea of flashbulbs.

Baker said Wal-Mart will open more pop-up stores in key cities. "We're into the better category for the long run," she said.

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