By  on March 11, 2005

ATLANTA — Nordstrom, with a prime location opening Friday on Atlanta’s luxury retail hot corner, is on the prowl for sensible growth opportunities.

The Seattle-based retailer appears ready to go head-to-head here with the high end — Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue — as well as with Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s.

Nordstrom’s newest store and third in Atlanta is in a former Lord & Taylor. It is a 135,000-square-foot space at Phipps Plaza in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood, and could be a portent of future growth in the aftermath of the Federated Department Stores Inc. acquisition of May Department Stores Co., said Pete Nordstrom, president of full-line stores, during a pre-opening gala at Nordstrom’s on Wednesday night.

“There’s likely to be some redundancy is some markets (where May Co. stores are located),” Nordstrom said. “We could take advantage of growth opportunity, but we’re not out to grow just for growth’s sake. We have to maintain quality and value.”

Nordstrom said the chain would compete not only on service, its strong suit, but also on the breadth of assortments, which he contended were stronger than those of Neiman Marcus and Saks.

“We compete with Macy’s, and on up to Neiman Marcus,” he said. “We have to emphasize service, but also emphasize product offerings and keep them distinctive. We can’t become cookie-cutter.”

The retailer’s two other Atlanta stores, in Perimeter Mall and The Mall of Georgia, are both in areas farther north of the city with more suburban customer demographics. The Phipps Plaza location is “where we’ve wanted to be for years,” Nordstrom said.

Anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and Parisian, and surrounded by tenants such as Gucci, Tiffany & Co. and Barneys Co-op, Phipps Plaza is across from Lenox Square, home to Atlanta’s only Bloomingdale’s, along with Macy’s, Neiman Marcus, among other high-end specialty stores. Both centers are owned by Simon Properties.

The new location allows Nordstrom to be a true competitor in Atlanta’s designer apparel scene, Nordstrom said. Atlanta, a metropolitan region of about four million people, could handle more Nordstrom stores, though no immediate openings are planned.“We’re going for it with a concentrated effort to up the ante,” Nordstrom said of the push to compete for the designer clientele. “We’re not underestimating this customer.”

Nordstrom will feature lines in Atlanta including Escada, Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler, Valentino Roma, Burberry, Chloé and Roland Mouret, and add designer shoes such as Michael Kors, Sigerson Morrison and Vera Wang. New men’s lines include Façonnable, Duchamp, Ted Baker, Le Tigre and Ben Sherman.

The designer focus was evident in two high-energy fashion shows Wednesday night in a tent outside the store. The shows included spring collections from Blumarine, Carmen Marc Valvo, Chloé, Lela Rose, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Proenza Schouler, Roberto Cavalli, Roland Mouret, Tracy Reese and Temperley.

The event, which raised around $150,000 for local charities, was attended by about 1,200 people, including Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and Andrew Young, a former mayor and U.N. ambassador, who bought dressy clothes for his six grandchildren.

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