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Lenox Square is becoming “Denim Lifestyle Central” in the Big Peach, with new stores set to expand lifestyle brands and grab the city’s denim-loving audience.

Seven For All Mankind and Ed Hardy both plan to open their first Atlanta stores this fall, following True Religion, Miss Sixty and Diesel, which bowed in town with stores in the past year.

This story first appeared in the August 7, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The popular brands appeal to the mall’s hip, young consumer base, with their high disposable incomes and taste for hot brands, said Tisha Maley, assistant vice president of leasing for Simon Property Group, which owns Lenox. The new stores, which are all exclusive to Lenox Square in Atlanta, appeal to the broad mix of international tourists and regional shoppers as well as locals, said Maley.

Retailers said the locations were influenced by strong wholesale volume in local department stores, including Lenox Square’s anchor stores — Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s.

“Atlanta is a strong market, and we can’t wait to get there,” said Aaron Battista, vice president of retail for Seven. “Lenox is a top destination, with high traffic and a big international tourist clientele.”

The 3,000-square-foot unit, one of Seven’s larger footprints, will be its first full-price store in the Southeast. With an existing Orlando, Fla., outlet, Seven also plans to open in Miami’s Aventura Mall this fall. Nine more stores are planned by year’s end, part of a five-year plan to open 100 stores for the brand, which was acquired by VF Corp. in July 2007.

With 70 percent denim, and average prices of $175, the store will include new fabrics in sportswear, from corduroy to cashmere, ranging from $50 to $400. Store interiors, inspired by its Los Angeles stores, contrast dark wood, white lacquer and blue stone elements, but will be tailored to Atlanta through visuals and special services, including refreshment bars.

“Atlanta has a high-end, luxury customer that likes to dress denim up with sexy tops and wear it out for evening,” Battista said.

Lenox Square will be the third mall location in Ed Hardy’s 18-store retail group. The new 1,400-square-foot store will open in October and include both the Ed Hardy by Christian Audigier and the Christian Audigier collection, a more edited sportswear offering, as well as a range of licensed products, from swimwear to energy drinks.

“We have to chose our mall locations wisely,” said Raelyn Hennessee, retail marketing director. “Lenox pulls a diverse clientele and we have a well-established audience in Atlanta.”

She cited the city’s music industry celebrities, including Ciara, T.I. and Lil John, as fans. Projecting $3 million in first-year sales, Hennessee said the Lenox store would be among the brand’s top five units in volume. Ed Hardy stores are also in Dallas’ NorthPark Center mall and Beverly Center in Los Angeles.

The new stores reflect strong sales for the category at Macy’s Lenox Square store, where premium denim has doubled space twice in the past year and now takes up one-quarter of the main floor.

Drew Pickman, chief merchandising officer for Macy’s Central, said premium denim lines, including those such as Ed Hardy with T-shirts that pair with denim, had been explosive at Lenox Square among players in Atlanta’s music and entertainment scene, as well as tourists and regional shoppers. Macy’s Lenox Square store, at 433,000 square feet, is the largest and highest-volume store in Macy’s Central Division.

Jennifer Black, principal of Jennifer Black & Associates, said stores offering denim and casualwear are in a great position to weather the current economic downturn.

“More people are working from home, and looking for clothes to wear all the time,” she said, adding that Lenox Square is “an A-plus mall and a wise choice for retailers.

Other new stores to be opening at Lenox Square this fall include Victoria’s Secret, which will expand its 10,000-square-foot existing store to a 15,000-square-foot flagship space. Mayors jewelers will relocate from a 2,400- to a 3,000-square-foot store. �

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