By  on January 6, 2005

NUREMBERG, Germany — Douglas entered new beauty territory last month with the opening of the chain’s first hair salon in its renovated superstore here.

Under the name Douglas Hairdesign by Oliver Schmidt, Douglas premiered the first of what the company’s deputy chairman Claus Mingers said could become a fixture in the chain’s larger, 5,000- to 6,500-square-foot doors, as well as a freestanding concept.

The full-service salon is located on the third floor of the 20,000-square-foot House of Beauty, adjacent to a hair care area now offering both consumer and professional hair care products. The professional lines, which include L’Oréal, Kérastase, Redken, Wella, Tigi, Osis and Paul Mitchell, must be rung up at the salon’s register, but this marks the first time perfumery customers have in-store access to professional products.

Douglas moved fast to get this concept off the ground. Impressed with the new salon designs he saw presented in Bologna, Italy, last summer, Mingers went to Paris to talk to L’Oréal’s Kérastase division. “I asked if they knew a professional who could help us, and they suggested Oliver Schmidt in Düsseldorf,” he recalled. Next stop, Düsseldorf, where Mingers showed up unannounced at Schmidt’s salon in the Kö Gallery, one of the stylist’s five doors.

In November, “this whole thing would have been unimaginable,” Schmidt said in Nuremberg. “I was in the middle of cutting hair when [Mingers] asked to see me. He explained the idea in 15 minutes over a coffee, and I was in a daze. Three days later, we finalized the concept in Hagen.” All in all, it took Douglas less than six months to realize the project.

The most directional aspect, according to Mingers and executives like L’Oréal Professional’s German director Eric Royer, is that Douglas installed a full salon with real hairdressers who can advise about styles. It’s not just about offering professional products.

“We supported this project because it’s a real salon,” Royer commented. “What’s particularly interesting about bringing a salon into a perfumery like Douglas is that it allows Douglas to considerably improve the quality of service to its customers, which clearly demonstrates the added value of a hairdresser salon in a beauty world.”The salon’s services also break new ground. Douglas Hairdesign offers a free, introductory five-minute “Hair Refresh” — which creates a new look without washing or cutting. There’s also “New Styling-New Me,” offering a scissorless new hairstyle for 20 euros, or $26.60 at current exchange rates, and “My Hairdresser-My Trainer,” a 39 euros, or $51.85, short training session that primes consumers to get more volume and hold out of their hairstyles at home. Appointments are not required, but may soon become necessary, as the 2,150-square-foot salon has been packed since opening in December. Haircuts go for 29 to 42 euros, or $38.60 to $55.80, color touch-ups cost 20 euros, or $26.60, and full color or highlights go for 30 to 60 euros, or $39.90 to $79.80.

Mingers would not talk numbers, pointing out Douglas is currently in a mandatory six week period of silence prior to the Group’s financial press conference in mid-January. But he was more than eager to discuss the new directions Germany’s leading perfumery chain is taking, and said he is “incredibly optimistic” for the year ahead.

Although some industry heavyweights have complained that Douglas is going “more mass than class,” the chain not only refutes the claim, but is launching a new luxury or premium format. Mingers said Douglas plans to open five luxury perfumeries in Düsseldorf, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen in the first quarter of 2005, with a total of 20 luxury houses to be in operation by the end of the year. Existing Douglas doors in prime locations will be redesigned, will be serviced by additional and more qualified personnel and will feature brands that are currently found only in exclusive, privately owned perfumeries, he said. Final details, including the brands involved, are currently being worked out. The premium stores will operate under the Douglas Perfumery name.

The head-to-toe beauty thinking behind the new Douglas Hairdesign concept will also be rolled out in the form of day, nail and foot spas in selected doors. Mingers said the perfumeries will operate cabines both with and without brand affiliation, so that consumers can choose the brand with which they wish to be treated. “We’re taking a consciously neutral position here,” he commented.“Service and quality is in the forefront of everything we’re doing,” he emphasized. “We’re currently developing a Douglas Face of the Year competition for 2005 or 2006.” Three age categories are planned: 16- to 24-year-old women, 24- to 35-year-old women and women 35 and up. The casting “will be lavishly set up and accompanied by media coverage, at the end of which the winners will be awarded a fitting prize like a modeling contract at a huge final gala,” a Douglas spokesman said.

Right now, Douglas’ face of the year is undoubtedly Heidi Klum, who’s taken to the screen in what is probably the chain’s most expensive TV advertising campaign to date. Shot in Paris at the Ritz by Michel Comte, the Christmas ad “has gotten sensational reaction. Editorially, we’ve achieved a lot,” Mingers reported. Again, Mingers would not talk euros and cents, other than to say “we have a very strong advertising budget.”

The Klum ad represents more than just a new dose of supermodel glamour. It marks a new phase in Douglas’ media image and the inauguration of a new company slogan.

“Our whole presentation has gotten younger and livelier. We’ve changed the [Douglas] magazine,” said Mingers. The publication now has both a fresher and more sophisticated aesthetic. The 78-page December issue mixes black-and-white and color model shoots, playful illustrations, graphic still-life layouts and feature stories.

While the retailer’s English language slogan, “Come in and find out,” ranked number six in German consumer recognition surveys, it’s been shelved in favor of “Douglas macht das leben schöner” or “Douglas makes life more beautiful.” Mingers said, “It’s a big deal to change our slogan, but we ran both in October, and got such a positive response to the new phrase, we decided to run with it.”

Douglas’ international network is growing. “Who invests more in distribution than Douglas?” Mingers asked. The 798-door chain, which operates more than 380 doors outside of Germany, recently opened new stores in Slovenia and Denmark. “We’re going to Prague, Greece and Turkey, plus we’re carefully considering the possibilities in China.”“But,” he added, “we know our key market is Europe.” He said Douglas has been “very successful in Russia, though we’re not pushing to grow too quickly. We have 20 stores on a very high level, and the same holds for Eastern Europe,” where Douglas expects to set up a separate division in the not-too-distant future.

As for the U.S., where Douglas has 12 doors, “sales and earnings are developing well. We have no problems, but we have no new plans,” Mingers said. “Still, it’s important to keep a foot in the door.”

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