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Henri Heads West

Limited Brands could be making another attempt to roll out its Henri Bendel brand nationwide. Limited is opening a new store at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio, this fall. The store will be the first Bendel outside of Manhattan in about seven years.

In 1997, Limited closed five of six Henri Bendel stores in various U.S. cities due to poor performance. But today, the 28,000-square-foot flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York is recording average sales per square foot of $1,429 per year. Last year, sales were up 20 percent for the high-end emporium.

The Columbus store will likely serve as a testing lab to tweak Bendel for another expansion attempt, observers say. The Ohio city is a market that is more sophisticated than folks on the coasts might think, says Wendy Liebmann, president of New York consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail. “Easton has been a cooking pot for various Limited concepts since it's so close to their head office,” Liebmann says. “They can work on it more aggressively but in a quiet way at Easton.” Other retailers, including Federated Department Stores, have used the center to test out new concepts.

The new Henri Bendel will be near Express in the 750,000-square-foot center, which is owned by private investor The Georgetown Co. Anchors at Easton include Lazarus-Macy's, Nordstrom, GameWorks and Barnes & Noble. A spokesman for Limited was not able to provide any information.

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