The center of Athens is slowly but noticeably changing in appearance with the creation of new department stores that are providing new poles of attraction for consumers. Next summer’s Olympic Games seem to have prompted the entry of new players in retailing and the more energetic activation of existing ones, aiming to tap an expected brisk trade during and after the events. A new, eight-story store of the Thessaloniki-based Fokas group – its second in Athens – was recently inaugurated at 41 Stadiou St, with more than 250 shop-in-shop corners in a modern and appealing setting. The group projects a turnover of 70 million euros for the year. The most impressive of the new ventures is the big department store currently being readied in the old impressive building of the Army Providence Fund, which occupies the quadrant set by Panepistimiou, Voukourestiou, Stadiou and Amerikis streets near Syntagma Sq. The deal between Attica Department Stores – with Elmec Sport as a founding member – and Picar envisages the creation of «the biggest department store in Greece,» which is expected to considerably change the retailing scene in the center of the capital. Attica will be the commercial operator of the 22,000 sq.m. facility, with an initial capital of 15 million euros. Company officials are speaking of an ambitious but realistic plan, «condemned to succeed,» given the favorable leasing terms – about 10 percent of turnover – and the broad customer catchment area from Omonia Sq to the upmarket residential district of Kolonaki. The board of directors of the new scheme includes representatives of well-established names in clothing, such as Lambropoulos, Benetton, Sisley, Fokas, Ridenco and Fashion Box. The company is currently considering partnership schemes with large foreign department stores. Notos Galleries has just opened its fourth outlet, «HOME» – a 17,000 sq.m. facility given over to household goods – on Kotzia Sq near Omonia. Vardas, a traditionally men’s store on Stadiou St, has just opened an adjacent store for ladies. The ongoing pedestrianization of a number of streets in the center is seen as having favorable effects on business but misgivings are not lacking regarding the potential of the market to «absorb» the new ventures without upheavals. A big question mark hangs over the future of Minion, once the biggest store but now out of business, which is controlled by Elmec Sport. Sources say it may be renovated again in the next two years.