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NEW YORK — Pharmaca, dubbed the Whole Foods of the pharmacy business, is proving natural beauty can be glamorous.
This story first appeared in the September 6, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Pharmaca is one step ahead of traditional retailers such as Walgreens and Ulta, who are adding more natural and upscale beauty products. The opening of five new Natural Beauty Bars illustrates the Boulder, Colo.-based retailer’s commitment to natural beauty in an elegant setting with wood fixturing, LED lighting and professional services.
Premium brands stocked include Jane Iredale, Dr. Hauschka, Evanhealy and Suki. Professional salon hair brands include Peter Lamis, John Masters Organics and MOP (Modern Organic Products). The first Pharmaca store opened in 2000, merging traditional pharmacy with holistic medicine, making it the first integrated pharmacy in the U.S. “We have homeopaths, naturopathic and osteopathic doctors, herbalists, estheticians, nutritionists and ayurvedic practitioners,” said company president and chief executive officer Mark Panzer earlier this year. “That’s what differentiates us.”
Pharmaca’s approach is proving popular with Americans looking to take charge of their own health and buy more natural goods. Company sales at Pharmaca are estimated to exceed $112 million. While units range in size, the average 4,200-square-foot store pumps out $4 million in sales — roughly 4 percent in beauty, industry sources estimated.
With a goal of duplicating the apothecaries popular in Europe, Pharmaca upped its upscale natural items in 2012 with a beauty bar in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Based on the success of that test, Pharmaca unveiled five new beauty bars last month in Brentwood, Menlo Park, Novato and Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore.
The stores mix the premium products with salon-quality services with aestheticians. There are free skin-care and color-matching consultations. Spa services include lash application, full facial makeovers and consultations, eye makeup applications and consultation, and waxing for brows, lip, chin, forehead, sideburn or full-face. To promote the new services, Pharmaca offers a free mini-makeover with the purchase of $100 of cosmetics or facial-care products.
“The Natural Beauty Bars are a logical extension of our practitioners’ talents and expertise and a way to offer our customers a more convenient, comprehensive beauty experience,” said Pharmaca health and beauty category manager Tiana Ukleja. Ukleja said the Natural Beauty Bar concept meets rising customer demand for waxing and cosmetic services that use salon-quality skin care and makeup. “These are services that women used to have to go elsewhere for,” she said. “We hope that they’ll take advantage of being able to pick up their favorite beauty products and get a brow wax, all in one spot.”
Pharmaca’s size enables merchants to be nimble and act swiftly to test new brands. For example, Pharmaca was the first to bring organic facial-care line Primavera to the U.S. market. The company said that although fragrance is not a big push, its merchants are on the prowl for new skin-care and sun-care lines.
Despite holistic positioning, Pharmaca uses all the traditional marketing tools including back-to-school promotions, a loyalty program and an online presence. That’s no surprise since Panzer’s background is in traditional mass retailing with experience at Rite Aid, Osco Drug, American and Albertson’s.