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Ready for Liftoff: Nars Heads to Travel Retail

Nars opened its first-ever travel retail counter at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Nars’ first travel retail counter.

Nars Cosmetics is heading down the runway of travel retail.

This story first appeared in the February 13, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The brand has just opened its first-ever travel retail counter at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and plans to add at least two more doors internationally by spring’s end.

“Our consumer is very urban and high end, very global — so this move makes a lot of sense for us,” said Louis Desazars, chief executive officer of Nars. “It gives a lot more exposure to the brand globally.”

That said, Desazars plans to be selective in the markets in which the brand will open. “It has to be the right airport, with a strong local business, great space and great location,” he said. The next two doors, both in Thailand, will open by the end of spring, and after that Desazars has his eye on the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Australia, just for starters.

“Down the road, we believe this will be a profitable channel,” said Desazars. “Makeup always takes time to build as it’s very labor intensive, but we are meeting the goals that we have set.” While Desazars declined to be specific, industry sources estimated the travel retail business to represent some 5 percent of the brand’s global sales within the next two to three years, reaching 10 percent within five years.

The JFK Nars counter, in Terminal 7 and operated in partnership with Duty Free Americas, measures 114 square feet and includes nearly the whole Nars range, said Desazars. Designed by Open D and made of black lacquer and chrome, the fixturing and display cases are intended to convey the brand’s modernism, he said. The store is open from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily.

“Introducing Nars in Terminal 7 at JFK is an ideal way to launch the brand in travel retail,” stated Ariel Gentzbourger, vice president of international business for Shiseido, which oversees Nars travel retail. “The passenger mix is right and we are happy with our partnership with Duty Free Americas and their acknowledgement of the potential for the brand. The introduction of Nars in travel retail will add dynamism to the airport offering and will make it even more attractive.”

“Shopping for luxury beauty items and gifts has become an integral part of being in a busy airport,” added François Nars, founder and creative director of Nars.

“We hope to enhance the shopping experience and help travelers find the ultimate products to look and feel good while at 40,000 feet.”

Speaking of flying high, Nars himself is readying a return to runway makeup artistry: he will serve as key makeup artist for Marc Jacobs’ fall 2009 ready-to-wear show Monday evening.

“François came back because of his relationship with Marc — they have a strong mutual admiration for each other’s artistry,” said Desazars. “The last shows he did 10 years ago were Marc’s. This season, Marc wanted to emphasize the makeup for his show, and François was his first thought. They are both modern, forward-thinking and very independent-minded, and are excited to work together again.

“François is in a period where he has lots of ideas,” added Desazars. “He is very involved in the brand’s development and in working on celebrating the 15 years of this brand. The name Nars will be heard more and more in the near future.”