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Shoppers Drug Mart Casts Upscale Concept

Canadian drugstore Shoppers Drug Mart trumpeted its high-end beauty cred with the opening of a new stand-alone beauty and wellness store called Murale.

A look at Murale.

OTTAWA — Canadian drugstore Shoppers Drug Mart, already a purveyor of a smattering of luxury beauty products, trumpeted its high-end beauty cred with the opening of a new stand-alone beauty and wellness store called Murale.

The first 7,500-square-foot Murale opened here on Saturday, with the second slated for Montreal on Dec. 7, measuring 8,000 square feet. Shoppers plans to open between five and seven more locations in Canada next year.

The Murale name has been registered outside Canada for possible expansion to other countries, according to Jürgen Schreiber, president and chief executive officer of Shoppers Drug Mart. Schreiber was recruited two years ago from Hong Kong-based A.S. Watson Group, an international health and beauty, luxury perfumeries and cosmetics company, where he headed up its European division in Amsterdam. Schreiber sees potential for 50 Murale stores in Canada, after which international expansion may follow. With an average transaction estimated at $65 to $85 a shopper, Schreiber said each store could generate annual sales of $4.5 million to $8.5 million.

“Murale is unlike any other beauty offering in North America with its unique combination of leading beauty and dermatological products, pharmacy and professional, expert services and consultation,” explained Schreiber, who conceived the concept for Murale.

Michael Westmore, a spokesperson for Beauty So Clean, which is sold at Murale, agreed. “It’s unlike any store I’ve seen in North America,” he said at the opening.

The store’s design includes influences from boutique hotels, luxury spas, fashion designer emporiums and even Apple stores.

It has wide aisles — wide enough to accommodate strollers — that meander around brightly lit curved display walls. In the middle of the aisles are round display units for smaller assortments of different brands, including Sula by Susan Lang.

In addition to carrying leading luxury brands — including Bobbi Brown, Chanel, Estée Lauder, Lancôme and Nars Cosmetics — Murale has a dermatological area for skin testing and consultation and cabines for facials and treatments, along with a pharmacist and an aesthetician.

The store’s fragrance section includes more than 75 men’s and women’s scents, with Prada, Donna Karan, Chloé, Cartier and Etat Libre d’Orange among them.

Trained across all major brands, beauty advisers are called beauty masters, and are prompted to offer “unbiased” beauty advice to customers looking for cosmetics and fragrances suited to their needs, as well as to provide expert makeup applications, said Shelly Rozenwald, president of Murale. She scouted North America, Europe and South Africa for the best organic moisturizers, luxury lipsticks and antiaging serums, in addition to the top-name cosmetic lines.

Murale also will offer unique services, including the first-ever Benefit brow bar in Canada for tweezing, waxing and shaping, and more than 30 professional beauty and spa services in two private cabines next to the dermatological area.

With more than 1,100 Shoppers Drug Marts and Pharmaprix stores across the country, including 180 in-store, high-end Beauty Boutiques, Shoppers has an estimated 10 percent share of the $8.5 billion beauty products market in Canada and has doubled its beauty product sales over the last four years, according to Schreiber.

The retailer decided to open Murale because of the limited opportunity to expand its product offerings at Shoppers and to fill a void in the market.

“Our Beauty Boutiques average 1,500 square feet and carry a maximum of 14 brands,” explained Rozenwald, a 30-year veteran of the beauty business, who was tapped by Schreiber from Holt Renfrew, where she was senior vice president of beauty and beauty services. “Murale carries the full line of 200 brands. For example, we carry all 700 [stockkeeping units] of Bobbi Brown, some for the first time in North America.”

Exclusive products to Canada include luxury skin care line Natura Bissé, Skin by Monica, Gosh color cosmetics, perfume billed as antistress by Smiley and niche cosmetics from Mommy Makeup.

“We offer products from every price point, so everyone can feel better after a Murale purchase, big or small,” said Rozenwald.

Murale also will carry some store-branded items, but only if they’re better than the competition, said Rozenwald. It currently offers 100 percent Murale bamboo blankets and Murale soy candles and will gradually expand its offerings.

“Between major brands and dermatology, we also offer novelty products,” she added.

Although Shoppers’ main market is the $25.5 billion of drugstore-type merchandise in Canada, its grab for market share extends into other categories, notably prestige cosmetics, said analyst Perry Caicco of CIBC World Markets, Toronto.

But unlike drugstore-type merchandise, where share is essentially gained through price and promotion, Caicco said that, in the prestige beauty business, market share is gained by expanded presence and better service, Murale’s trademark. The analyst wouldn’t comment on the potential for Murale, as he hadn’t visited the store.

“It’s a very European concept and unique in North America and I know what they’re trying to do. But it’s not going to have a major impact on Shoppers’ sales,” which, in the third quarter, were $2.37 billion. He added, “They would have to be in the range of 200 stores to make a difference.”