SHORT HILLS, N.J. — Harmon, a discount beauty store chain, has unveiled a new look here that is anything but budget.

The store, which bowed in May, is a combination of the deals offered in a Costco with the products and ambience of an Ulta. It also pays homage to Harmon’s parent, Bed Bath & Beyond, which acquired the beauty retailer in March 2002.

Bed Bath & Beyond has added mini Harmon departments to many of its home goods stores. In turn, Harmon has expanded its offering of household needs such as garbage cans, shower curtains and storage items.

But what really elevates this new Harmon from past stores — and from other mass beauty merchants — is its fixturing and flooring.

Harmon has always sold items that were a cut above traditional fare. For instance, the chain had professional hair care items long before drugstores and supermarkets entered the fray. Now the chain has a decor package to match the products.

Located in a strip shopping center in this wealthy town, the new Harmon is directly across the street from one of the busiest Bed Bath & Beyond stores in the chain. The Harmon store features a department store inspired window with a large Almay graphic to send the message the store sells beauty.

Once inside, the first aisle is full of snack and candy deals, but it leads shoppers past a mammoth hair care department and into beauty, which takes up the back third of the store. Along the way, consumers are tempted with 40 feet of trial and sample sizes.

Most of the store is carpeted except beauty, which is set off with a wood floor. Harmon makes great use of its peg wall and a large area of displays for new or promotional items. Assistance is abundant and on a recent shopping trip, a reporter was asked several times if there was anything she needed.

The peg wall is Harmon’s own fixture and spans the entire back of the store. The major mass brands such as Revlon, L’Orèal, Cover Girl, Physicians Formula, Neutrogena and Maybelline are presented on the wall. Signs alert shoppers to 30 percent savings on most mass brands. Also, borrowing a tactic from its parent, Harmon is sending out discount coupons to shoppers in its trading area.Harmon also carries a huge display of Styli-Style in a unique spinner rack, as well as products from Prestige and niche items such as a LipStix, a long-wearing lipstick sealer, and Rubiglo — one of the earliest bronzers. The new Bratz collection from Fira is on display for the young set and a collection called Goddess from Fira is also featured on endcap displays. Harmon also sports huge displays of Milani, which is emerging as a brand of choice among multicultural shoppers. Since Harmon devotes more space than traditional mass merchants to beauty, the company can offer more obscure lines.

Despite a decline in sales of fragrances in the industry, Harmon stocks a huge glass case with prestige brands at sharp prices such as Drakkar Noir 3.4 ounce at $33.99 (suggested retail $47.50).

There is an expansive assortment of what retailers report is a hot category — cosmetics applicators and removers. Harmon has hundreds and hundreds of wipes, cotton balls and applicators from companies such as Andrea and NuPore. There is also a huge presentation of salon-quality brushes, including ceramics and boar bristles from J&D Beauty. One entire gondola is devoted to storage cases, train travel cases and plastic cosmetics cases.

There is a well-defined makeup brush department highlighted by products under the Sicara logo. The department may be the best mass market nail presentation in the business. In addition to new lines from Sally Hansen, Harmon has salon brands including Orly and Essie. There is also a full selection of artificial eyelashes headed by products from Ardell.

The off-shelf fixtures are inspired by department stores and include glass shelves and chrome. There are also elegant wooden fixtures that would look at home in an Origins store versus a mass door. When possible, displays are illuminated and products are available for trial — a tactic borrowed from Ulta. For example, makeup mirrors are illuminated so consumers can see that they work. Even power toothbrushes are set up for people to play with. One of the most shopped displays is a full tower of L’Orèal True Match makeup where consumers can look in a full-face mirror to see how the colors match their skin tones.

Harmon also stocks a great deal of drugstore fare such as pain relievers, shaving needs and skin care. What it does not have, however, is a pharmacy. The foot traffic here is solely driven by deals on beauty, snacks and household needs.It is apparent Bed Bath & Beyond likes cross-pollinating ideas between its two formats. The Harmon store here has a large offering of products associated with Bed Bath & Beyond, such as folding clothes hampers. There is also a push for back-to-college sales and the store offers a checklist for students stocking up before heading back to campus.

There are now 31 Harmon stores in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. And although Bed Bath & Beyond, which had annual sales exceeding $4.2 billion, has added the Harmon sections to new and existing stores, it is also opening freestanding units. Bed Bath & Beyond retained Harmon management and the management teams operate out of the parent’s Union, N.J. headquarters.


J.C. Penney finalized the sale of Eckerd earlier this week with 1,260 stores going to CVS and 1,549 stores to Jean Coutu’s Brooks. Now the industry awaits management changes, especially that of any beauty merchants who could be retained by Brooks. With the additional stores, sources suggested, Brooks could use more management strength in the beauty area. Brooks is expected, at least for now, to retain the better-known Eckerd name in existing stores. The shedding of Eckerd is expected to help J.C. Penney put more effort behind building its existing specialty store business.

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