Forever 21 expected to bring more traffic to key King Street area

A crew installs the sign for the Forever 21 shop at its Majestic Square building at King and Market streets in downtown Charleston. The trendy clothier will open Jan. 15.

College of Charleston sophomore Lydia Davidson can't wait for Forever 21 to open on King Street.

"I think it's going to be good that they will have clothing that will be affordable and fashionable," the Columbia native said while shopping in downtown Charleston. "Everybody around here talks about them coming, and they want it."

The Los Angeles-based trendy discount clothing shop for women and men opens a week from today following a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. where upscale merchant Saks Fifth Avenue stood until it pulled out of downtown in July after a 14-year stay.

The new tenant gutted the 30,000-square-foot, highly prominent space in Majestic Square at the corner of King and Market streets and renovated it with new fixtures and flooring.

Construction workers were still putting finishing touches on the empty shop Friday.

A peek through the doors revealed white marble floors at the entrance, chandeliers along a side wall and different levels of all-new, recessed lighting throughout the store.

"We are very pleased to have been given the opportunity to expand our business into Charleston and offer our value to more people," Forever 21 Executive Vice President Larry Meyer said.

"Customers will be able to shop all the latest trends in an exciting shopping environment at Majestic Square."

Nearby merchants on Friday mostly welcomed the new store in the large retail space that has been vacant for six months.

"It's going to bring a lot more people to King Street," said Amelia Hendrix, a former Saks employee of 14 years who now works in the new upscale women's shop, Rapport, at 235 King, just a few doors away. "I think it's nothing but positive. There's room for everybody."

Cache shop manager Lisa Molinari also sees Forever 21 as a plus for King Street.

"I'm happy that the space will be filled," she said inside the women' clothing shop at 237 King. "We don't like to see empty spaces."

Morgan Garrell, manager of the United Colors of Benneton shop at 231 King, said foot traffic will increase, and that could translate into more business for everyone.

"For our store, it will help to bring in more traffic," Garrell said. "I would have liked to see a high-end store there, but it will bring more college students down here."

Christian Michi owner Sherry Taylor said she would prefer that an upscale merchant across from her high-end, home furnishings and couture clothing shop of 35 years as well, but she said she would welcome her new neighbor.

"Maybe their mothers will shop here," Taylor said of Forever 21's mostly younger clientele.

Forever 21 started in 1984 in Los Angeles as Fashion 21 in a 900-square-foot store. Within the first year sales soared from $35,000 to $700,000, and the company decided to change the name and open a new store every six months.

Today there are 470 stores across the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Korea, Japan, Philippines, England and Ireland, and the company opens them faster than every six months.

Another South Carolina store, though much smaller than the one in Charleston, is planned for the Midlands at Columbiana Centre in Columbia by this spring.

Reach Warren Wise at 937-5524.