By  on April 29, 2005

LONDON — The Australian makeup brand Becca has just opened its first stand-alone store, a hideaway for makeup lovers who want to play, get pampered or just take a break with a glass of champagne and a plate of chocolates.

The store, at 191a Pelham Street in South Kensington’s high-end Brompton Cross shopping hub, is designed like a boudoir with beaded curtains, suede furniture, chocolate walls, crystal chandeliers and product-packed makeup displays.

In addition to makeup appointments and a private VIP room, the boutique offers full nail treatments and quick touch-ups, washes and blow-dries, and sells the full range of Becca cosmetics.

Co-founder Rebecca Morrice Williams has also introduced some beauty products and accessories from Australia including Kailis Pearls jewelry; Ginger & Smart bags and accessories; Kusco-Murphy hair products and Christina Fitzgerald nail products. She eventually aims to sell selected items of lingerie and clothing at the boutique.

“We truly want to look after, and connect with, the customer,” said Steven Schapera, chief executive officer and co-founder of Becca with Williams. Schapera said he sees the boutique as everything from a preparty venue on a big night out to a quick-fix for harried shoppers.

“Girls and their friends can pick up some oysters from Bibendum down the street, and then come here, drink champagne, and get made up before their night out,” said Schapera. “On Saturdays, we expect mums to come with their kids. The husbands can sit and read the paper and have a drink.”

Schapera and Williams both stressed during a recent interview at the boutique that they wanted to get away from the minimal, clinical style of so many beauty centers, which is why they’ve given the store an intimate, sensual feel.

They also stressed the boutique is not a day spa, but a quicker fix for those in need of pampering. “We want people to come and lounge around on the sofa, try the products and have a drink. Our sales people don’t work on commission so there’s no pressure to buy. But we feel like if you hang out here, you can’t help but buy,” said Schapera.He added: “We felt like this was a retailing opportunity that wasn’t being exploited. And it’s not for everybody. It’s for a very thin slice of the market.” Prices start at 20 pounds ($38) for a 15 to 20 minute makeup touch-up.

The 1,400-square-foot boutique is on three levels. The principal product, lounge and makeup areas are on the street level. The second level down is the private, VIP area. From there, a flight of stairs leads down to another lounge area that Williams and Schapera plan to use for private parties and events.

The business partners plan to open some seven stores in the long term. They expect the next one, which will likely be in New York, Los Angeles or Sydney, to open in about two years’ time. The U.S. generates the lion’s share of Becca’s sales — between 50 and 60 percent. Sales points in the U.S. include Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Sephora and about 20 independent retailers. Worldwide, the brand sells at 70 different locations in 15 countries.

Becca, which debuted in the fall of 2001, specializes in foundations and foundation-based products that generate more than 50 percent of sales. Schapera declined to give annual sales figures for the brand, but industry sources estimated that they top $20 million globally.

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