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Nokia Opens Flagship Retail Store in Chicago

Against a background of techno music, video screens and pulsating lights, shoppers on Saturday checked out the full line of Nokia's products at the opening of the giant mobile phone maker's first U.S. flagship store.

"I've been waiting for 20 minutes for the store to open," said Kelly Leinberger, 25, a medical student. "I'm going to buy a Nokia phone ... a design that was not on the Web site."

Some 20 product specialists applauded as people streamed into the chic Michigan Avenue outlet at its 10 a.m CDT opening.

It is the first of four flagship stores that Finland's Nokia (NOK) — the world's largest mobile phone maker and the No. 2 U.S. mobile phone maker — plans to open in the North American market, and the second in the world.

Nokia launched its first flagship store in Moscow in December last year, and plans to open 18 stores worldwide in the next two years.

The move by Nokia into the retail arena is part of a push to showcase its brand, which often has to take a back seat to those of the service providers that sell its phones to consumers.

Nokia's store is in the hometown of biggest rival Motorola Inc. (MOT) and a few blocks away from Motorola's temporary retail space showcasing its latest phone, called "Q," on Chicago's trendy "Magnificent Mile."

Inside Nokia's 2,450-square-foot (228-square-metre) space people marveled at its luxury Vertu brand. These high-end mobile phones fetch prices of $5,000 to more than $90,000 for a version that is solid platinum and diamond-accented.

"There is always the temptation to buy. These stores do that to you," said Pier Deganello, 32, who works in information technology.

"Here you see all the phones in one place. Before, you had to browse through all the different phone carriers to see which Nokia phones were even available," he said.