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Chris Jones

Forum Shops' New Luxury-Shop-Packed Addition Draws Public's Raves in First Day

25 October 2004

If scarcity truly determines an item's value, superlatives could be had on the cheap Friday morning at the Forum Shops at Caesars.

Words such as "extravagant," "beautiful" and "gorgeous" flowed repeatedly from the mouths of shoppers getting their first look at the Strip shopping center's three-story, 175,000-square-foot expansion, which opened to the public at 10 a.m.

"This place is very rich, very elegant," said Penny James of Fishers, Ind., who toured the mall with her mother, Glenna Hubbard. "Even us poor people who can't afford to shop here can still appreciate the beauty," she joked.

As television crews stirred and toga-clad models danced nearby, Louisiana resident Rindy Romine was elated to snap a photograph of singer Jewel, who was on hand to help open one of the mall's half-dozen jewelry stores. Romine's 16-year-old daughter, Hannah McCullin, said upscale stores and celebrity shoppers aren't often found in their home town, Natchitoches, La.

"We were here in June and had heard that this was going to be opening soon," Romine said. As her daughter looked on smiling, she added, "I'm pretty sure we'll do some shopping today."

Even Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman got in on the act. As he strolled through the mall about 10 minutes before it opened, Goodman joked he was there to incorporate the Clark County-based shopping center into the city of Las Vegas.

"Have you seen the ceiling on this place? It's nicer than the Vatican," Goodman said, referencing the murals above.

Such positive feedback was welcomed by the company that invested approximately $139 million to fund the latest Forum expansion.

"This is a pretty good turnout for 10:45 on a Friday morning," Les Morris, a spokesman for Indianapolis-based mall owner Simon Property Group, said as he overlooked the scene.

The crowds were also appreciated by the mall's retailers and restaurants, 52 of which opened Friday; another five are expected to fill out the new wing by next week, said Maureen Crampton, the mall's marketing director.

Lloyd Atkinson, owner of the Aventi European clothing boutique, called the mall's opening moments "a relief." He and his wife, Jackie, spent nearly a year preparing their third-floor store, and both were glad to see live customers finally making the rounds.

"It's been a long process, but to be part of something new is incredible," Lloyd Atkinson said. "We looked at Fashion Show and some of the other hotels, but for our (product) line, this location is perfect."

Thuy Tranthi, president of London-based clothier Thomas Pink, was also pleased her company's 13th U.S. store opened in Las Vegas. Its core product, formal dress shirts, should be particularly popular here because the city's conventions draw so many male business travelers, she said.

"This has become one of the premier luxury shopping destinations in the United States, and it's a very promising destination for luxury brands" said Tranthi, whose parent company, Paris' Mo't Hennessy - Louis Vuitton Group, also opened the Celine women's fashion and Fresh body products stores within the expansion.

The Forum Shops opened in May 1992 with 283,000 square feet of retail space. Its themed stores, patio-style restaurants and talking statues shows quickly caught on, and 5 1/2 years later the center expanded to 500,000 square feet, adding another set of talking statues plus popular tenants that include NikeTown, Virgin Megastore and FAO Schwarz.

The mall's sales average more than $1,400 per square foot, more than four times the U.S. average for enclosed shopping centers.

Unlike its preceding phases -- which mimic an outdoor Roman streetscape, complete with ceilings whose colors change like the rising and setting sun -- the Forum Shops' newest wing catches shoppers' attention through its stores and strong vertical architectural features. One European couple even compared its appearance to Old World cities.

"There's nothing like this in Europe. We have the originals, but this is really nice" for a shopping center, said Kjell Kraakmo, a Norwegian traveler who with his wife, Elin, concluded their five-day stay in Las Vegas on Friday.