By  on July 1, 2005

NEW YORK — Procter & Gamble is closing down Reflect.com today, which had been touted as the first site to offer customized beauty products online. Approximately 50,000 variations of hair, skin and makeup products were possible for purchase online with prices on par with department store brands. Reflect even went so far as to display a client's name on packages, replete with a gem.

In a message on the Web site's home page on Monday, Reflect executives thanked customers for their support and said, "It is with sincere regret that we announce the closing of Reflect-True Custom Beauty. Thank you for your support and patronage over the years. Your participation and enthusiasm has helped shape the world of custom beauty."

Fewer than 45 employees will be affected by the closing, P&G said.

The consumer products giant acquired Reflect, which is based in Silicon Valley in California, in December 1999 for an estimated $50 million. Venture Partners, a venture capital firm based there, helped develop Reflect and also owned a small share of the site. Signs that Reflect was in limbo emerged in May 2002 when chief executive Ginger Kent left the company. But as late as last year Reflect was making inroads by finding its way into stores, such as Marshall Field's State Street unit in Chicago, where it operated a counter, as well as in Old Orchard in Skokie, Ill. Each of the counters was closed two weeks ago. A freestanding location in Northbrook, Ill., closed in the last quarter of 2004.

As of last August, Reflect garnered approximately 1.3 million visitors each month and had sold nearly 10 million customized items since its launch, according to the company. Its best-selling product was the True Blend Custom Foundation & Sealer.

According to a P&G spokesperson, Reflect served its purpose in that it taught the beauty behemoth the intricacies of customized beauty. Those lessons have now materialized in the recent launch of Cover Girl Custom Compacts, a new line of color compacts that allow consumers to pick and choose their desired shade palettes. For now, the spokesperson added, "We will focus on core brands and take these [experiences] and apply them to our business."Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail, said the closing of Reflect does not surprise her but that P&G was innovative in bringing the site to fruition in the first place.

"I think P&G was very visionary. They saw [Reflect] as vehicle for experimentation and customizing beauty very early on in the Internet world. The site gave them a point of difference, especially at a time when it was a challenge to put national brands online."

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