PARIS — France’s beauty retail scene is percolating with new and revamped formats and torrents of brand introductions. But the flurry of activity belies an underlying truth: It can’t seem to push the selective retail market out of its doldrums.

"It’s survival tactics," said Jeanine Recckio, beauty futurologist and founder of Mirrormirror, of New York.

Most industry observers characterize the prestige beauty business as practically flat and all the window-dressing is an attempt to perk up a sleepy sector.

"I think the relative saturation in the prestige market has created a certain number of initiatives — the introduction of exclusive or very specialized brands and a renovation of stores’ images," said Jean Levy, a retired industry consultant and ex-L’Oréal executive.

Many retailers are tweaking product mixes in an attempt to lure younger customers and ensure their long-term liability. "Retailers are starting to realize that if they want the customers of tomorrow, they must give them what they’re seeking," said Claude Palatin, a consultant at Paris-based C&C Consulting.

George Wallace, London-based Management Horizons Europe’s chief executive, said certain department store beauty floors are morphing into veritable brand emporiums.

Many retailers are pursuing niche brands, which raises the question whether they lose their cachet when they proliferate. "As a famous U.K. industrialist said, a niche can become a tomb," one source said.

One recent casualty was Lora Lune, the French beauty-by-the-slice retailer and brand that shuttered its two shops and department store corner, plus halted its correspondence business, this fall.

Meanwhile, a number of beauty retailers are testing new formats, concepts and products.

Printemps department store’s flagship here will get a head-to-toe, 11-month makeover starting in January 2003, when the beauty department’s floor space will be increased by 70 percent — from 21,530 square feet to 37,670 square feet — and be located on the ground floor, where it is currently, and the floor above, and linked by escalators.

Crabtree & Evelyn just debuted its second freestanding store, on the Right Bank, 17 years after inaugurating its Left Bank boutique. The 610-square-foot store is expected to generate between $305,000 and $310,070, according to industry sources.By Terry will open next week a new 1,670-square-foot store in Galerie Vero-Dodat, the location of her first door, which will be shut — save for by-appointment visits. The new boutique will house By Terry’s makeup on the ground floor and, eventually, her home furnishing collection one flight up.

Among the other key initiatives are brand rollouts and


Galeries Lafayette has just rolled out the brand Rituals, which includes skin care and home products, and BCBG Max Azria’s four fragrances. It also inaugurated a 445-square-foot Shu Uemura stand and a 215-square-foot L’Oréal Paris stand, both in September.

Bon Marché last week debuted a 300-square-foot Nars corner, which sells the brand’s makeup and skin care. It also inaugurated 220-square-foot corners for Stephane Marais and By Terry in the past two months.

Samaritaine opened an OPI nail bar and new stands for Kanebo, Creed, Stephane Marais and MAC, all in September.

Printemps will introduce the Etro fragrance brand in December and French body care line La Compagnie de Provence in March 2003.

Sephora’s flagship on Paris’ Champs-Elysées introduced Stephane Marais’s product line at the end of September. The store will also have exclusives on Biotherm makeup and Fashion Fair.

Parfumerie General will debut the new four-item Doux Me natural, organic product line. It comes from Swiss, Aveda-trained, ex-Elle journalist Caroline Wachsmuth, starting next week. Doux Me items will be sold in Isotherm bags to keep products cold for enhanced effectiveness. Prices range from $60 for a 30-ml. skin care cream to $65for a 15-ml. eye contour cream.

All dollar prices are converted from the euro at current exchange rates and are for Europe.

Colette introduced Nars’ skin care line and reintroduced the Aesop collection, both in September. The specialty retailer will also start selling Airbrush, a spray-on foundation, by Uslu Airlines in the next few weeks.

Galerie Noemie introduced the Expeau fragrance, its third scent, in October. The 50-ml. eau de toilette spray sells for $32 a bottle.

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