By  on August 30, 2007

After opening its fourth Cusp store near Chicago in suburban Northbrook Court this month, Neiman Marcus plans to take a breather and assess the status of its more modern boutique-style concept.

"We found a contemporary shopper who prefers smaller specialty stores to bigger stores," said Russ Patrick, managing director, Cusp. "We're trying to reach those customers."

That was the genesis to launch Cusp, which takes its name from contemporary designers on the cusp of fashion, in locations including Los Angeles' Century City and Virginia's Tysons Corner Center in 2006 and in the Georgetown section of Washington this year.

"We're testing them out in different markets," Patrick said of the stores, which carry apparel and accessories from brands such as Tory Burch, MK2K, Rory Beca, True Religion and Christian Louboutin. "So far they're performing to expectation."

Aimed at the fashion-savvy 25- to 45-year-old woman, Cusp tries to make it easy to put together hip, casual looks.

Patrick said the company has no plans for any future locations.

At 7,500 square feet, the newest Cusp is slightly smaller than some of its sister stores but maintains the concept's funky loft decor and offers a similar assortment, with prices ranging from a $70 Splendid T-shirt to $1,200 Manolo Blahnik boots.

After monitoring response and sales at the other stores, Patrick said Neiman's tweaked its product mix to include more feminine looks, including a $638 Mod color-blocked minidress from Abaeté.

The Cusp store at Northbrook Court mall in Northbrook, Ill., joins a multilevel Neiman Marcus that is one of the mall's anchors along with Macy's and Lord & Taylor.

In efforts to draw customers and complement its contemporary vibe, the Northbrook Court Cusp will bring in DJs each weekend and plans regular designer trunk shows and personal appearances such as one featuring Inder Bedi, designer of Matt & Nat, a fashion-forward line of vegan handbags, which was held this month.

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