By  on February 20, 2009

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Town & Country Apothecary’s senior vice president and marketing director Diana Ross isn’t one to just sit around and wait for business to improve.

The vibrant Ross has helped build Town & Country, an independent drugstore retailer here, into a beauty emporium. But, as is the case with other retailers, the economy has taken a bite out of business, and Ross has launched several programs to keep shoppers coming to her door. Many of her initiatives have Ross thinking locally about her community and how she can link her store’s services to charitable events. “In this economy, the consumer feels less guilty when purchasing for herself, while participating with a good cause,” she said.

On Valentine’s Day this year, Town & Country partnered with Project Ladybug Foundation, an organization with a mission to enrich the lives of local children with life-threatening medical conditions, in a beauty fund-raiser called “Have a Heart.”

Town & Country asked women to donate $15 and with that they were entitled to a free chair massage, skin analysis, mini-facial, makeup advice with application and hair consultation with styling tips. A drawing was held at the end of the day for a tote bag filled with products valued at $500. Paula Dorf made a personal appearance with her national makeup artist, Ivan. Brow guru and makeup artist Ramy and his assistant crafted brows and executed makeup applications. Phyto provided the hair consultations and B. Kamins’ experts performed facials. The store’s resident foot reflexologist offered 25-minute sessions with the purchase of any two Clarins body products.

Not only did Town & Country bring in a great number of shoppers, but Project Ladybug took in $1,300, according to Ross.

Ross’ efforts go beyond one-day events. She takes her wares on the road for home spa parties featuring Clarins, B. Kamins and La Mer. After sitting through many suburban home parties à la Tupperware, Ross devised the idea of Makeup Demonstration Parties that she reserves for Paula Dorf and Stila products

As part of her links to the community, Ross has classes on skin care for Girl Scout troops as well as Ladies Nights Out. “We are working diligently to identify ourselves as a community retailer,” she said. One avenue to fight the sluggish economy has been to reinvent the store as a beauty party planner with events available ranging from beauty bachelorette evenings to couples pampering nights.

Back in the store, Ross has seen opportunity to expand non-cosmetics departments such as gifts and accessories and a baby department. The baby assortment includes Cloud B, Noodle & Boo and Mustela. “We do custom baby baskets, baby shower registry and we have a postpartum mommy support club here.”

Of particular success has been what Ross calls an “unusual plan of action to regain consumer confidence.” She has teamed up with local businesses from restaurants to clothing stores and hair salons where she asks customers at these outlets to bring in everything from their beauty collection at home. “I eliminate products that I feel are not good for them. They are shocked that I keep some of the products that are not carried at Town & Country. I then incorporate what is missing from their regimen. We establish a trusting relationship because it’s important what ‘not’ to sell to the consumer in a recession,” she said.

Of course the array of items not available at Town & Country is shrinking. While Ross had to knock on many doors to get the brands the upscale merchant has stocked, she now finds more brands willing to sell her. She’s content with the stable of brands she’s built which she believes is streamlined for her consumer. The lineup includes Paula Dorf, Ramy, La Mer, Darphin, Estée Lauder, Clarins, Stila, Clinique, B. Kamins, Bumble and bumble, Phyto and Anthony Logistics.

There are good reasons marketers and consumers like the Town & Country model. A well-trained sales staff pampers and knows customers.

“I find that if the consumer is going to spend any money, she wants exemplary customer service and independently owned stores seem to provide comfort to that consumer. I spend a greater portion of my day on the selling floor, listening to the consumer. I offer complimentary services to go along with her purchases; hand treatments, mini-facials, makeup lessons. It adds value to her purchase,” she said.

Sales associates have notebooks on the floor and capture information about customers such as birthdays for a free facial. “I have an amazing staff and we communicate one-on-one on a daily basis. They understand how to execute all of these programs. It is a group effort to forge ahead during this difficult economic climate,” Ross concluded.

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