By  on October 5, 2007

NEW YORK — Nicky Kinnaird, a queen of the British niche beauty retailers, has gained a foothold in the U.S. in June and now plans to open three more Space NK boutiques in the Tristate area.

During a recent interview here, Kinnaird said she plans on opening freestanding stores in the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, perhaps by Oct. 24; another on Columbus Avenue, between 69th and 70th Streets, on New York's Upper West Side in mid-November, and a third at 24 Harwood Court in downtown Scarsdale, N.Y., at the end of November. Of the three new stores, the Columbus Avenue unit will measure 1,000 square feet, while the other two will be 1,500 square feet each.

Space NK opened its first U.S. store at 99 Greene Street in New York's SoHo neighborhood on June 14, and its look undoubtedly will be echoed through new stores being added.

"SoHo has been really good," Kinnaird said, without mentioning specific numbers. "People are recognizing that we are offering a real difference." On the chain's home turf in the U.K., there are nearly 60 Space NK stores operating, up from 46 units a year ago. According to estimates by industry sources, some of the British stores boast a sales productivity approaching $2,000 per square foot.

The Greene Street store contains a total of 3,000 square feet, with slightly less than 2,000 square feet devoted to selling space. Kinnaird said the store's bestsellers are Eve Lom and Space NK signature products as well as some of the organic treatment lines that the store carries on an exclusive basis. The store also has two treatment rooms, which are expected to go into operation soon and offer Eve Lom facials.

She noted that the store is drawing from a considerable expatriate population in SoHo, a large tourist stream and a lot of Americans who regularly travel. "A lot of people are discovering Space NK for the first time," she said.

The Space NK approach involves providing an intimate boutique ambience with a highly specialized, tightly edited assortment aimed at providing problem-solving products. Some Space NK units measure a mere 500 square feet.The key is customer service. Kinnaird stressed in a previous interview that all the sales staff is trained with six weeks of schooling across all the brands. In the U.K., a typical store will have five to 18 salespeople on the selling floor at any time, Kinnaird said.

In terms of diversification, Space NK opened a new flagship with a spa in the Knightsbridge section of London at 40 Hans Crescent. The first spa location was opened in Notting Hill in 1999. Space NK also opened a men's store in London's Soho section in 2005.

Kinnaird's strategy in competing with larger competitors, like Sephora, is not only to provide service in an intimate setting, but also to offer a highly edited selection of prestige brands, many of them exclusives from Europe. In the previous interview, Kinnaird estimated that the average Space NK store carries 50 to 60 brands, with more than 40 percent of sales generated by skin care, 30 percent by color cosmetics, 10 percent by hair and fragrance and the remaining 20 percent by the Space NK house brand.

Kinnaird recently has been in the process of adding some new brands to the assortment: Jurlique, an organically produced line from Australia; INA Crystals from the London-based Inner Nutritional Alchemy Crystals Ltd., a treatment line based on crystal salts and other natural ingredients; Joshi Holistic Skin Care, also from London, where the company operates a metabolic detox fitness clinic, and Face Boutique, a nine-stockkeeping unit skin and hair care line aimed at young consumers in their mid-20s. When INA makes its debut, the brand will trumpet its White Gold Detoxifying Crystal Salts, a product designed to detoxify the skin.

The infrastructure for Kinnaird's budding foray into the U.S. is housed in offices in the Greene Street store, where visiting Space NK specialists from the U.K. train local staff. Kinnaird said she is also curious about the Japanese market, but her priorities and focus are squarely centered on the U.S. right now. Kinnaird said she expects to open six stores a year in America "for the first couple of years."

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