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January 15, 2009




The retailing of recorded music will take another step toward extinction in early April, when the Virgin Megastore in Times Square closes to make room for Forever 21, a popular chain that sells moderately priced clothing.


The closing, which was announced to the store’s 200 employees this week, will leave the Virgin store on Union Square as the last Manhattan outpost of a large music chain. The future of that store has not been decided, Simon Wright, the chief executive of Virgin Entertainment Group, said on Wednesday.


Stores that sell prerecorded CDs and DVDs have been done in by the popularity of digitized music that can be downloaded from the Internet onto iPods and MP3 players. But Mr. Wright said that the Times Square store, which has about 60,000 square feet of selling space, is not simply a victim of technological progress.


It has remained “very, very profitable” by shifting its merchandise toward apparel and electronics, including iPods, he said, adding that those two categories accounted for about 25 percent of sales during the holiday shopping season.


“Stores that rely completely on recorded music have a difficult future,” he said, “but we’ve been changing our business quite dramatically.”


But the chain’s owners, two big New York-based real estate development companies, saw greater potential in leasing the prime space to Forever 21.


The Virgin chain, once part of Sir Richard Branson’s business empire, has been owned since 2007 by the Related Companies and Vornado Realty Trust. It comprised 11 stores when it was acquired, but now will be down to just five, two of them in California. Virgin closed other stores late last year.


The Times Square space, on the east side of Broadway near 46th Street, will be closed for at least a year before it reopens as Forever 21’s largest location. It will be combined with some adjoining space to create a 90,000-square-foot store that will be triple the size of any of Forever 21’s three current stores in Manhattan, said Lawrence Meyer, a senior vice president of Forever 21. Forever 21 is a Los Angeles-based chain that sells trendy clothing for young women and men. It competes with other moderately priced retailers like H & M and Gap stores.


“This is a bigger format,” Mr. Meyer said. “It’s going to be a fashion department store. It’s going to offer a deeper assortment of women’s apparel and men’s apparel.”


Mr. Meyer said the recession had not diluted his company’s enthusiasm for making a big splash in an expensive area like Times Square. He declined to specify the rent Forever 21 will pay.


“We have been doing O.K. in this environment because we have always given great value to our customers,” Mr. Meyer said. “Our stores are exciting and we want to create an exciting environment in Times Square.”



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i heard we are getting a Forever 21 downtown at Les Ailes Complex


Yeah, you are right!


Forever 21 takes flight at Les Ailes

L.A.-based retailer to open here; 'These guys are on fire, they're one of the hottest retail brands in the U.S. right now'


By MIKE KING, The GazetteJanuary 20, 2009

Forever 21 operates this store at the West Edmonton Mall.



Montrealers' sense of style could be the city's saving grace during the current economic crunch, commercial real estate and retail experts suggested yesterday.


Top names in the clothing business have set up shop around town or will be moving here this year.


"Montreal is a very desirable and vibrant city for retailers," Jeff Berkowitz, president of Aurora Realty Consultants Inc., said yesterday. "There's a lot of growth potential despite the economy."


In March, one of Berkowitz's clients, Los Angeles-based Forever 21, is taking possession of the prime Ste. Catherine St. location of the former Archambault music store as well as an adjoining space on the métro level in Complexe Les Ailes.


Johanne Marcotte, general manager of Complexe Les Ailes, confirmed the "excellent news" about Forever 21 and added: "We will help them open as soon as possible."


"These guys are on fire, they're one of the hottest retail brands in the U.S. right now," Berkowitz said of the California company that sells what it advertises as "cheap, fun and fast apparel and accessories aimed at teens and college kids."


Forever 21's 18,000- to 19,000-square-foot Complexe Les Ailes location in the heart of downtown is expected to open in time for this year's back to school rush.


Another store will open in the Champlain Mall in Brossard by the end of the year.


And in the spring of 2010, the company is taking over the three-floor, 30,000-square-foot Gap store location at the corner of Ste. Catherine and de la Montagne, Berkowitz said.


The private retailer operates more than 400 mainly mall-based stores in the United States and Canada, including two existing locations in Ontario and one at the West Edmonton Mall.


He said he puts Forever 21, "one of the top performers in retail the past two years," in the same category as two popular international players that recently arrived here - Zara of Spain and H&M of Sweden.


The three retailers are known for quickly getting inexpensively priced, ripped-from-the-runway fashions on their sales floors.


Gilles Fortin, owner of the Tristan & America chain, said there is "definitely a trend" of all the fashion firms wanting to be in Montreal, especially on Ste. Catherine, which he describes as one of the busiest streets in North America for retail.


"We were about two years behind Toronto (in attracting U.S. fashion retailers) because of certain fears about (French) signage, but with the arrival of Forever 21, the big international players are almost all here now," Fortin said.


Louis Burgos, senior vice-president for Quebec at property management firm Cushman & Wakefield LePage, acknowledged the economy is more stable here than south of the border, adding that "Quebecers have always been very fashion conscious and spend more disposable income on clothes" than elsewhere.


Nathalie Verge, vice-president of operations for the Retail Council of Quebec, said the group's survey found Montrealers spent 9.4 per cent of their disposable income on clothes last year - more than 50 per cent more than the Canadian average per population.




For more information, visit http://www.forever21.com

© Copyright © The Montreal Gazette

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