By  on September 28, 2007

LOS ANGELES — San Francisco-bred Benefit Cosmetics is bringing its particular breed of beauty boutique — a veritable cosmetics and primping services dessert buffet femininely dressed up in pink, yellow and white — to its neighbors down south.

The premiere Southern California store will open Monday on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, and a second store is scheduled to follow in the winter on Los Angeles' Third Street. The new entrants follow Benefit's retail debut in the Midwest, where it put stores in Chicago as well as nearby Naperville and Evanston, Ill., earlier this year.

"Going on 30 years now, Jane and I have gone by our gut," said Jean Ford, who founded Benefit with twin sister Jane Ford, of picking store locations. "We look at how many people are walking up and down the street with shopping bags. I also like to be on streets where there is a lot of window because we have a lot to show off."

All told, Benefit will have 17 boutiques by yearend, including seven in the U.K., and expects to open six to eight next year, when its retail network will spread to New York. In addition to its own stores, the $300 million brand, majority owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, now sells its products in more than 850 doors in 23 countries.

Industry sources estimate the Benefit stores, mostly around 800 square feet, will generate between $1.5 million and $2 million in annual sales each. Services run from a $9 lip wax to a $65 introductory Brazilian bikini wax; cosmetics average $21 apiece.

Ford anticipates that the clientele in Los Angeles will be similar to the regulars at Benefit's high-volume Mill Valley location outside of San Francisco: trendy women who tend to be in the 30- to 50-year-old age range. She added that those savvy customers appreciate Benefit's playful approach to retailing — products are presented in candy jars with pink lids — and user-friendly beauty services, which Ford stressed are available to satisfy immediate needs.

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