By  on March 11, 2005

NEW YORK — Sephora president and chief executive officer David Suliteanu is a self-professed “ampoules addict.” He divulged that GoSmile ampoules — little vials filled with tooth-whitening solution — are “everywhere but the dashboard of my car.”

Suliteanu’s fondness for whitening on the go, coupled with the explosive growth of the category, has prompted Sephora to officially name the “smile” its fifth retail pillar. “Smile beauty,” as it’s also known, joins Sephora’s established retail categories of makeup, skin care, fragrance (the heart of the business) and hair care, which it added to the mix two years ago.

Sephora’s embrace of “smile beauty” — or at-home tooth whitening as it’s known outside the doors of the cosmetics and fragrance retailer — comes as consumers have begun to show a fascination with pearly white teeth (a prerequisite of megawatt Hollywood smiles). Approximately 100 million Americans have already latched on to the trend, according to a study by financial services firm Morgan Stanley. They are seeking out treatments in dentist offices, in drugstores and, more recently, in specialty shops and upscale department stores. All tolled, Americans shelled out over $1 billion dollars on tooth-whitening services and products in 2003, up from $50 million in 2001. Morgan Stanley projects the niche business will reach $15 billion in sales by 2010.

Brands such as Crest, Colgate and Rembrandt carved out the category in drugstore chains and discount stores nearly three years ago. But Suliteanu credits GoSmile, a tooth-whitening system developed by New York City dentist Jonathan Levine, with evolving whitening products into beauty tools, at home next to lip gloss and mascara.

“Our business is focused on the face,” said Suliteanu, adding, “Our customer is serious about all things beauty, and for Sephora not to focus on the smile was a big miss for us.” Sephora first dabbled in the category several years ago, clearing room for oral care items on a bottom shelf next to dermatologist-created skin care brands. Other brands in the slim assortment include Supersmile and Darphin DenBlan toothpaste. Suliteanu acknowledged shoppers had trouble finding the section, and that GoSmile had to work hard to convince Sephora to give its brand visibility in its stores.

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