The Neiman Marcus Group has taken it slow rolling out the Cusp freestanding contemporary chain. Now Cusp shop-in-shops are in the works, and what better place to test the new format than in the mothership.

This story first appeared in the January 14, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

In early March, three Cusp boutiques will open inside Neiman Marcus stores in NorthPark, Dallas; Atlanta, and San Francisco. It’s a sign Neiman’s remains committed to further developing the Cusp concept and believes it could elevate Neiman’s productivity and bring an extra element of differentiation.

“The Cusp shop-in-shops will be merchandised the way we merchandise our freestanding Cusp stores — by lifestyle versus vendor,” said Ginger Reeder, Neiman’s vice president and spokeswoman. “They’re highly edited and all about personal style and flair.”

“We feel like we’ve learned a lot from merchandising Cusp boutiques,” Reeder said. “Now we will see how they translate within the Neiman’s store environments. It really is a test. We still are committed to the concept of freestanding specialty stores.”

She said Cusp shops inside Neiman’s will be true shop-in-shops, ranging from 1,800 to 2,500 square feet, designed with their own character and clearly defined space, like the way designers such as Chanel and Giorgio Armani are merchandised with “hard” shops inside Neiman’s. At Neiman’s Atlanta and San Francisco, Cusp shops will be next to the contemporary ready-to-wear departments. In NorthPark, Cusp will be next to cosmetics.

Ready-to-wear labels in the Cusp shop-in-shops will include French Connection, Beyond Vintage, Blank Denim and Torn. Shoe brands will include Sam Edelman, Dolce Vida and Havianas. Handbags will include Foley & Corrina and Linea Pelle, while there will be jewelry from House of Harlow, Lola Dee and Gorjana, and accessories from Love Quotes, Deepa, Gurnani and Elegantly Waisted, among other vendors.

Cusp launched in 2006 with a freestanding 9,537-square-foot shop in Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va. The most recent opening was in November 2008 in Water Tower Place, Chicago. There are also units in Century City, Los Angeles; Georgetown, Washington; Northbrook, Ill., and Chestnut Hill, Mass.

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