By  on June 20, 2008

Walgreen Co.'s globe-trotting has unearthed another exclusive brand.

The drugstore chain will make room in its 6,500 stores for The Face Shop, a South Korean-born beauty brand and retailer.

Beginning in August, Walgreens will offer 10 different facial mask treatments from The Face Shop.

In doing so, Walgreens gives the five-year-old retailer a foothold in nearly every market across the U.S.

The exclusive deal grew out of a six-month test in which Walgreens sold an assortment of The Face Shop's product in 65 doors across Washington and Oregon, where Walgreens' stores are heavily trafficked by Asian shoppers.

Referring to the test, Michelle Hobson, manager of strategic business development for beauty, said, "It validated it was worth it to roll out The Face Shop in both Asian markets and general market stores."

The Face Shop broadens Walgreens' international offering, a merchandising initiative it began in earnest with the unveiling of its European Beauty Collection — an assortment of seven premium-priced skin care lines — in fall 2006. Soon after, it added Yes To Carrots, a natural skin and hair care line from Tel Aviv.

Hobson said Walgreens began searching for an Asian beauty line at the request of a district manager in the Northwest, who wanted to meet the needs of the region's Asian consumers.

Walgreens turned to Nick Hudson, co-founder of Excelsior Beauty, the beauty marketing firm that sourced the brands for Walgreens' European Beauty Collection. Hudson suggested the retailer consider The Face Shop, and arranged a meeting with the two companies at the sprawling Comsoprof trade show in Bologna, Italy, in April 2007.

To introduce U.S. consumers to facial masks, which are widely used in Asia, Walgreens' beauty departments will feature samples and a video loop of The Face Shop treatment, explaining how the serum-soaked sheets work and their benefits.

Outside the stores, The Face Shop plans to distribute one million free face masks in shopping malls and at beaches, parks, universities and festivals, said Tommy Kim, executive vice president and chief operating officer at The Face Shop. He noted that The Face Shop sells more than one million masks each month in South Korea alone. The retailer has more than 900 stores in 19 countries in Asia, and generates $500 million in annual revenues, said Kim.Hobson said longer-term, Walgreens may decide to expand its 65 "pocket departments" of The Face Shop products in the Washington and Oregon stores, which are stocked with about 60 skin care items, including cleansers and toners, to strong beauty markets like New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco.

She noted Walgreens plans to make some minor updates of its European Beauty Collection display, which includes weeding out some underperforming items to make room for colorful graphics.

For its part, The Face Shop entered the U.S. market in 2005, opening a branded boutique in Manhattan, which it has since shuttered. To date, the retailer has a total of four stand-alone boutiques in the U.S. located in Queens, N.Y.; Palisades Park, N.J.; Chicago, and Santa Clara, Calif. The company is scouting out real estate for additional stores, and plans to open two more California doors this year, and about four additional units next year.

The Face Shop has also taken to the airwaves. The company's premium skin care range, White Tree, recently appeared on HSN.

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