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Teams of Chicago women, seemingly eager to buy colorful maxidresses adorning the windows of Bebe Stores Inc.’s new trilevel flagship on Oak Street, filled dressing rooms for the store’s opening party earlier this month. The only roadblock remained the city’s chilly, drizzly 40-degree early April weather.
It’s those troubling temps that have hurt business more than the economy here, said Greg Scott, Bebe’s chief executive officer.
“Chicago seems not to have had the same issues as the rest of the country,” he said. “It’s just the weather. The good thing is, our client, as soon as she sees the sun, she’s out in the store shopping.”
Bebe’s counting on that trend as the Brisbane, Calif.-based retailer extends its presence in the Windy City, unveiling its new 7,500-square-foot flagship on Oak Street and launching a new 3,300-square-foot store set to open this summer along Damen Avenue in the city’s trendy Bucktown neighborhood.
Business in Chicago is on the rise following a lull dating to early 2000, Scott said.
“This market has grown tremendously for us here,” he said. “Chicago in the last two years has come back into its own.”
And Scott said both new Chicago stores will feature merchandise suited to their locations. For the larger Oak Street store, which draws locals and tourists alike, the bright white-walled and white tiled-floor decor reflects that of Bebe’s Rodeo Drive flagship and features a first floor full of dresses, handbags, shoes and sunglasses, Scott said, noting accessories have been the company’s fastest growing category. Specific items include $138 gladiator sandals, $149 straw totes with leather trim and $149 maxidresses.
The second floor, meanwhile, will house outerwear, suiting pieces and sportswear, including a $119 organza trench and $79 organza sheer ruffle blouse. The third floor contains its first-ever “Club Bebe” level where the retailer highlights its rhinestone T-shirts and tanks, including a $39 logo crown and hearts tank, as well as its denim, accented by marquee lighting, dancing poles, and gold fixtures.