By and  on November 2, 2007

PARIS — As part of Jo Malone's aggressive retail expansion plan over the next few years, the London-based fragrance manufacturer, which is owned by the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., opened its first freestanding boutique here on Tuesday.

"The world is now discovering Jo Malone, and the early success of the brand in France gives us a great opportunity to grow Jo Malone around the world," said Leonard Lauder, chairman of the Estée Lauder Cos., who attended the party for the store opening this week. "People always say the hardest thing is to sell fragrances to the French, but we've had a soft opening, for a few weeks, and the response has been wonderful."

Famed for its mixing-and-matching technique, the new store enjoyed an easier-than-expected debut. "The French got [fragrance combining] more quickly than the Americans," added Maureen Case, president of specialty brands worldwide for the Estée Lauder Cos., which include Jo Malone, La Mer and Bobbi Brown.

The two-storied 1,290-square-foot store has the brand's signature vanilla-colored walls, black stone floors and wooden counters — a color scheme mirroring that of Jo Malone's product packaging.

"This is our way of making an impact in the European scene," said Case. "Our home for Jo Malone has always been in London, but any credibility in the fragrance area requires having an anchor in Paris."

Available in 127 specialty and department store doors, including Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, and 15 freestanding stores globally ranging in size from 500 to 1,200 square feet, the company hopes to further expand its freestanding retail distribution both in the U.S. and internationally over the next few years. Available in nine countries, the company has plans to open freestanding stores in Milan, Moscow and Geneva by next fall. Currently in the U.S. market, Jo Malone has four freestanding stores in three key cities, and the company has expansion plans to open about 15 stores in key U.S. cities over the course of the next three years.

"We're growing from 20 to 25 percent across all markets and have plans to continue growing our business as we open freestanding boutiques to help bring the consumer a clearer understanding of the brand," said Case.According to industry sources, Paris' Jo Malone freestanding store is expected to bring in $2 million in first-year retail sales. According to executives, the company has exceeded expectations over a two-week period by 30 percent. Case said the brand expects the Parisian Jo Malone store to be the top door across Europe outside the U.K.

In the boutique, on Paris' Rue Saint-Honoré, across the street from Colette, customers can peruse the 18 fragrances in the Jo Malone product assortment that includes everything from fragrances and bath and body products to candles. The company felt that by opening on the street they chose, they would have a competitive advantage since it targets both local Parisians and international travelers who frequent Colette.

Customers can try products out either through a quick spray or a hand and arm massage done in a specially allocated fragrance bar area. The second floor serves as a VIP space for celebrities, press events and Jo Malone's best customers. The boutique is the brand's second in France, following a store in Cannes, which bowed in May.

"We want to reproduce in our boutiques the feeling of being in an apartment, of being at home," said Sabine Vénézia, Jo Malone France's marketing director.

Case added, "Jo Malone is a fragrance brand that's about a modern English luxury and how it's incorporated into one's lifestyle. Fragrance is at the core, but it's a gift-giving brand that's about creating one's signature fragrance, which is best expressed in a freestanding arena."

Another strategic element on which the company is focusing is educating consumers on the gift-giving aspect of the Jo Malone brand, in the art of entertaining, bath and decorating with scent. As part of this initiative, the company has established a gift concierge, where consumers can purchase products online or on the telephone.

"We'd like to capitalize on the creation of gifts that fit consumers and their consumer profiles," said Case.

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