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Forever 21 is moving quickly to boost its footprint in Japan with plans for three new stores next year.

This story first appeared in the December 28, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The fast-fashion giant said it will open the units in Tokyo late next spring in three shopping districts: Ginza, Shinjuku and the LaLaport Tokyo Bay development in Funabashi City.

The Los Angeles-based chain launched its first store in Japan in April, an 18,000-square-foot location in Tokyo’s Harajuku shopping area. More than 1,500 customers lined up to wait for the doors to open. Company executives said then the chain wanted to have as many as 100 stores in the country, although the timing of the rollout hinges on finding the right locations.

The new Shinjuku store will be in the space occupied by Marui Group’s In the Room, which will close at the end of February.

Details on the Ginza and LaLaport stores were not immediately available, but the company expects a quick turnaround on the recently leased spaces.

“The business in Japan has been good, things are OK,” said Larry Meyer, executive vice president at Forever 21. “That market can easily absorb more stores. The retail districts in Japan are much different than the U.S. People don’t often cross from one into the other while shopping. ”

With continuing turbulence in the U.S. economy, Asian markets have been a powerful lure. Over the last year, Opening Ceremony, Ron Herman, Rick Owens, Tom Ford, Nike, Hennes & Mauritz, Ermenegildo Zegna and Tila March have opened doors in Tokyo, with Tory Burch and Abercrombie & Fitch to launch soon.

“Japan isn’t a new market for retail, but it’s new for us and it’s been a strong developing client base,” Meyer said.

Meyer and architect Jas Nakaoka, who designs and oversees the build-out of Forever 21’s retail concepts, flew to Japan Wednesday to visit the new sites.

In another development, the trend-driven brand will open a large-concept, department-style store in Cerritos, Calif., in January in a freestanding former Mervyns location that spans 86,000 square feet, a move beyond malls that the company began exploring with the 2006 opening of a Forever 21 in a 40,000-square-foot former Saks Fifth Avenue in Pasadena, Calif. Forever 21 and Kohl’s Corp. won a joint bid to move into 46 vacant Mervyns stores last year after the midrange department store filed for bankruptcy.

Forever 21 now operates more than 450 stores in the U.S., with international operations in Canada and Japan.