By  on December 13, 2004

DALLAS — Christi Harris, a pioneer of the cosmetic makeover during the early Seventies, is quietly bringing her style of relationship selling to specialty stores.

Harris has a solid reputation in Dallas, where she has an eponymous store and makeover center at the Galleria mall that sells her extensive line of treatment and color products. She also sells directly to a base of 15,000 consumers via mail and the Internet.

With an eye toward gaining broader exposure, Harris opened a showroom in January at the Dallas Market Center to pitch her body, hair and skin potions to retailers. About 15 independents have picked the lineup, and Nordstrom this summer placed her treatment collections in three of its Texas stores — Houston, Austin and Plano.

“Our customers love the product,” enthused Kelly Rothschild, beauty buyer for 12 Nordstrom stores in Texas, Georgia and Florida.

“Christi is a very involved vendor who is in the stores promoting her line. We are absolutely looking at expanding it to other stores, and Texas is where we would look first, because that is where she is and can support the line,” Rothschild said.

For Harris, who built her business doing clinics and classes, there is no point selling treatment products unless the client knows how to use them correctly. She has staged six all-day events at Nordstrom, in which she has taught skin theory or used a machine to analyze hair. Thirty to 40 women attended each appearance, she said.

“You have to build a customer base and get your name out, and we spend 30 minutes with each woman who comes to our events,” said Harris, claiming 95 percent of the women bought products after a consultation. “If you have good products, you have to educate them on how to use them correctly. If they use it wrong, they will think it’s not working, and it winds up in their drawer. I would rather not go in so many stores so fast but get repeat sales.”

The hair care has been a bestseller, partly since all seven products add up to just $87, including two different shampoos, a conditioner, a detangler, a protein treatment spray, a vitamin treatment cream and a styling spray gel. All are 8 oz. except for the protein and vitamin treatments, which are 4 oz. “That old thing of ‘we better raise the price if we go into a department store’ — wrong,” Harris declared. “People say, ‘It’s $10 for a shampoo? I want the whole collection.’”

Her two antiaging skin products have also done well — a 1-oz. Hydradermal Lift Complex serum for $85 and a 1-oz. Hydradermal Under Base cream, to smooth skin under makeup, for $45.

The body treatment elixirs are a four-step process — a 12-oz. cleanser at $23, an 8-oz. exfoliant for $28, a 12-oz. moisturizer for $36 and a 6-oz. moisturizer spray sealant for $38.

Harris also is selling a linens-room spray called Off the Line, which somehow captures the aroma of line-dried laundry. Nordstrom is carrying it, and she is talking with hotels about using it in their rooms.

Christi Harris Co. does close to $5 million in annual sales, she said, including direct sales of skin care and color lines that she is not currently wholesaling.

Harris expects her wholesale business alone will reach $1.5 million in 2005, when she expects the products to be in 50 stores.

Harris also plans to launch three hand-treatment products and a four-part men’s skin care line to retailers next year.

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