By  on February 15, 2008

Bluemercury Inc. is in a New York state of mind.

The Washington-based beauty apothecary plans to open its first store in Manhattan on Feb. 25.

The new store, located at 2305 Broadway at 83rd Street, is one of about 30 store openings planned for this year across the U.S. for the 27-unit chain.

The Upper West Side fits Bluemercury's long-standing strategy of establishing itself as the neighborhood beauty store.

"I look for the stroller factor and the hang-out factor," said Bluemercury's founder and chief executive officer, Marla Malcolm Beck, on why she choose the Manhattan location. "I believe in local markets, where most clients live within a 20-block radius and view Bluemercury as almost a substitute drugstore."

The typical Bluemercury assortment features 50 brands, including Trish McEvoy and Nars makeup, Tocca candles, Supersmile toothpaste, Ren Clean Bio-Active Skincare and Frédéric Fekkai hair care.

Quite a few beauty retail establishments have already set up shop in the Upper West Side neighborhood, including MAC Cosmetics, Sephora, Ricky's, L'Occitane and British import Space NK.

Bluemercury, Beck notes, has dealt with close quarters before, in particular at its Georgetown store in Washington, where there is a Sephora, MAC Cosmetics and L'Occitane in close proximity. "The block then becomes a beauty destination," said Beck, referring to the benefits of neighboring competition.

Bluemercury might be new to New York, but the firm's customer database indicates the apothecary is not new to New Yorkers. In fact, a couple of thousand Manhattanites have already shopped at the retailer in other markets, according to Beck. To introduce itself to those who have not, Bluemercury will send out a minicatalogue to nearby residences, as it has begun to do in some new markets, like Tucson, Ariz.

Like each of Bluemercury's stores, the 1,700-square-foot Manhattan unit will offer spa services and is outfitted with two treatment rooms. The Brightening Facial, which is slated to roll out chain-wide this summer, and massage are special additions to the service menu. Beck said she anticipates that the sheer volume of store visitors and lack of daytime shopping lulls will help the New York unit outperform other stores in the chain. While she would not comment on sales expectations, industry sources expect the new store's productivity to approach $2,000 a square foot — which is in line with Space NK's British doors. As a point of comparison, financial sources estimate the typical Sephora store generates $1,200 a square foot.When asked if beauty is recession-proof, Beck said certain categories, namely makeup essentials and skin care, will fare better than luxury body care and candles. But, she noted, the beauty industry has changed since the last economic downturn in 2001. "After 9/11, our spa business was hit hard, as people chose to avoid the luxury service. We are not seeing that this time around. People now see it as a necessity and the [comparable-store sales] rate for our spa business is 20 to 25 percent."

Bluemercury plans to open a store in Bethesda, Md., in early March, and to drop its first magalogue in April, which is slated to be distributed three times a year. As to whether Bluemercury may open more doors in Manhattan, Beck said, "I don't see why not."

To unlock this article, subscribe to WWD below.

load comments
blog comments powered by Disqus