COLUMBIA -- Forever 21 will open its first store in the Midlands next spring at Harbison's Columbiana Centre.
The store is expected to be a destination for young women looking for fashionable clothing at a value price.
"This is a great thing for Columbia residents," said Marianne Bickle, director of University of South Carolina's Center for Retailing, who described the Los Angeles-based retailer's clothing as hip-casual and said they would appeal to high-schoolers up through women in their 30s and possibly beyond. "It's excellent for a college town."
At 12,300 square feet, it will take up four retailer spots, including the former Miyabi restaurant, which relocated about a year ago, and Radio Shack, which will move later this year.
That will make it the biggest store in the mall aside from anchor tenants Dillard's, Belk, JCPenney and Sears, mall manager Tom Dornfeld said. The new store will have an outdoor entrance and inside entrance across from Belk, he said.
"They will be seen as a type of anchor store," Bickle said.
Construction is expected to start in November with an opening in March.
Radio Shack will move to a 2,661-square-foot area on the JCPenney side of the mall, with an opening set for November.
Forever 21 will open a store in Charleston in the former Sak's Fifth Avenue spot near the end of the year, the company's executive vice president Larry Meyer said. That store will be around 30,000 square feet. It has a 90,000-square-foot location in New York's Times Square.
The retailer sells tops, bottoms, shoes and accessories, ranging from $2 to $40, Meyer said.
That means it likely will attract shoppers who are guarding their wallets in a down economy and spending cash rather than charging it as they try to reduce debt, Bickle said. The store is likely to attract teens who "shop in packs," to families and single parents looking to save on clothing.
"I can see some housewives ... in their 40s, buying a sweater, 50-something getting a (T-shirt)," she said. "It's not age-specific. It's more mentality. It will get people from a variety of income brackets and age brackets."
Forever 21 has faced controversy over the years, including lawsuits from designers who said the company copied their designs and criticism for its maternity store, which critics said targeted pregnant teens.
Overall, the store should benefit the mall, drawing more traffic to the food court and other retailers, Bickle said.