By  on December 20, 2005

LONDON — Mexx, the fast-fashion brand owned by Liz Claiborne Inc., has lifted the veil on its first new-generation flagship, a store that wants to be an oasis for the harried shopper.

"The big, white box feel is over,'' said Ashish Sen Sarma, vice president, consumer sales at Mexx International BV, during a walk-through here. "We're warming up, and moving away from minimalism toward a boutique experience."

The store, which takes up an entire block on Oxford Street, is across from the Bond Street subway station and has 14,267 square feet over three floors. The site formerly housed Clinton Cards, a mass stationery chain.

The Mexx store is large, even by London standards. It is opening as London retail endures ups and downs. In October, the number of shoppers fell by 7.2 percent year-on-year in the city's congestion zone. Activity began to pick up in November, with a slump of 0.9 percent, according to the London-based retail traffic monitor SPSL. Last weekend, SPSL said the number of Christmas shoppers was down 4.4 percent on Saturday and 5.5 percent on Sunday, and the group speculated that shoppers may be anticipating last-minute offers and sales before Christmas.

In addition, the $14 per car central London traffic congestion charge — in effect from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays — is encouraging customers to shop out of town.

But Mexx's managers are undeterred.

"Of course, we were going to open this first flagship in London,'' Sen Sarma said. "London isn't just London. It's the world: Here you're getting customers from the U.S., Russia and the Middle East."

Although Mexx declined to release first-year sales projections, industry sources expect the brand to generate at least $1,720, or 1,000 pounds, per square foot.

"Sales have been better than expected, 20 percent up on the original target,'' Sen Sarma said. "There has been fantastic foot fall at the store."

Since the store opened Oct. 29, bestsellers have included a cotton and Lurex gold wraparound top retailing for $69, a cotton knee-length beige skirt with brown flowers retailing around $69 and a leather belt with diamante detail on the buckle for about $51.

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