By  on July 6, 2006

NEW YORK — Neiman Marcus Group is on the cusp of a bold expansion move.

In an effort to capture more business from existing young shoppers as well as those who might have eluded its full-line stores, the retailer is launching a new concept — called Cusp — that is a smaller store format with a youthful vibe, but the same polished service for which the company is known.

Four pilot Cusp stores are slated to open over the next nine months, starting with a 9,500-square-foot unit at Tyson's Corner in McLean, Va., bowing later this month, followed by an 8,000-square-foot unit in Century City in Los Angeles, opening early next month. An 11,000-square-foot store in Georgetown is scheduled for a February debut. The location of the fourth store has not been determined, said Ginger Reeder, vice president of corporate communications.

"Cusp is targeted to a younger, very savvy shopper," Reeder said, adding, "younger in chronological age and mind-set. The thing the customer will have in common across markets is that she has her own ideas of how to put things together. She really likes fashion, but likes to be known for her own distinctive look."

Everything about Cusp will be different than a typical Neiman Marcus store, starting with the highly edited merchandise mix, which will be overwhelmingly contemporary. Resources new to Neiman's that will be featured include Phillip Lim 3.0, Jet and J Brand jeans and Morphine Generation. There also will be Repetto and Salvador Sapena footwear and handbags by Chloé, Marc Jacobs and Kooba, among others. Whereas there's a wide variety of Chloé styles in a full-line store, Cusp will choose the "It" bag, Reeder said.

In addition to fashion, footwear and handbags, Cusp will feature jewelry and beauty products as well as a selection of CDs and books.

Cusp's decor will eschew the luxury trappings traditionally associated with the Dallas-based retailer, such as marble floors, plush carpets and sleek fixtures. Rather, the spaces will look intentionally raw with exposed duct work on ceilings and polished concrete floors. The stores will be decorated with a mixture of flea-market finds and natural elements; this is a big switch for Neiman Marcus, which commissions fine art for its full-price stores.

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