Bluemercury Maintains Expansion Mode

The brand will open eight doors this summer, including in Portland, Ore., and up to 20 stores next year, she said.

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. — Marla Malcom Beck last week popped some Champagne and opened her 50th Bluemercury store here. The milestone is not an endpoint, but merely a pause before rapid growth.

Bluemercury will open eight doors this summer, including in Portland, Ore., and up to 20 stores next year, she said. If all goes according to plan, Beck will grow her concept more than 50 percent within 18 months after spending 15 years slowly nurturing it from a single store in Washington D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood.

She said she has not had to bring on additional investors, but will fund expansion herself. “One lipstick at a time.”

The 50th store is Boston’s fifth door, following last year’s opening on Newbury Street. That store is lagging expectations slightly after a tough winter, with 20 days of snow-related closures, she said.

Beck chose The Street at Chestnut Hill — a new lifestyle center populated by restaurants, a luxury movie theater, and boutiques like Lululemon, Intermix and Portabello Rd — for its triple A location. The state’s first Wegman’s supermarket is nearby, drawing large crowds since opening a few weeks ago.

“Did we need a fifth store in Boston when we have no stores in Texas?” Beck asked rhetorically, then explained the driving force is not to cover the U.S. but to choose the best available location. The operating team has mapped 300 “triple A” locations. When space on this wish list becomes available, the company acts.

She declined to project store revenues, but predicted that Chestnut Hill would open at a B door and move to an A. The company’s A doors generate about 30 percent more revenue than B doors, she said.

Each store opens with a core assortment and then has “direction” layered in based on sales data and customer requests, Beck said. That direction might include more natural products, such as Tammy Fender, or a bigger presentation of suncare and self-tanners. On the first day, bestsellers included Oribe shampoo, color cosmetics and candles.

“We have a big feedback loop about what customers ask for and we react,” she said.

Adjustable glass shelves mean it’s easy to add an additional plank and expand the assortment. Across her business, Beck is bullish on eye shadow sticks, masques, Natura Bisse, her own M-61 line, and an upcoming launch, R +Co., which she dubbed the “Coachella of haircare” from Reuben Carranza, president of R+Co. She plans to test it in 10 stores. She hinted she’s creating another proprietary brand to complement M-61, but was mum on the details.

The company is reworking its mobile app to better communicate when sold-out products are in stock. It will also include a profile feature, so a customer can remind herself of the shade of foundation or lipstick she already uses when she’s making a replenishment buy.

Bluemercury is testing more open-sell space for cosmetics in its Westport store, but she emphasized that the consultant stations will not go away. “We find customers want both, so we’re figuring out what that means for us,” she said.