By  on February 28, 2008

Cos Bar is taking to the desert.

The high-end indie beauty chain, founded by Lily Garfield in Aspen, Colo., in 1976, has just opened a 900-square-foot store at the El Paseo Shops in Palm Desert, Calif.

The new store — Garfield's second in California and 10th nationwide — carries a variety of high-end skin care, color cosmetics and fragrances. "Our aim is to make you feel like you're in our house," said Garfield, who said she tailors the appearance of each Cos Bar store to its location — with Palm Desert designed to be Rodeo Drive-style chic.

"When a customer walks in, we aren't accosting them. We're letting her browse in the candy store, and when she has questions, we steer her in suitable directions," she said. "In some stores, you might be pressured to buy an entire range from the same line — but perhaps it's better for the client's skin to cherry-pick from different lines. I make sure that every single person who works for me is well-versed on everything we sell, so we can help the customer make an informed decision."

Garfield instructs her staff to ask what products the client is already using before recommending anything new. "We want to know what she's happy with, as well as what she's not happy with — it's not just about selling another $500 cream," said Garfield. "If it doesn't work, she won't be back. While she may be ready to buy a whole line when she walks in, we may sell her one product that will improve the efficacy of everything she's already using. It's about asking the question."

Garfield's top skin care brands include Chanel, La Prairie, Cle de Peau, Kanebo and Sisley. Serums and creams, ranging in price from $125 to $650, account for a large percentage of that business.

Garfield also has a healthy color cosmetics business, which she sees as a purely impulse buy. "No one is loyal to color," she observed.

While Garfield declined to discuss sales projections for the Palm Desert store, industry sources estimated that it could do $1 million in its first year of operation.

The Palm Desert store is being run by Garfield's son, Oliver Garfield. "Oliver spent a year in Bloomingdale's management program and is a detail man on expansion," said Garfield.

Speaking of expansion, Garfield's not done yet with California. She plans to open a third California store (in addition to Palm Desert, there is a Cos Bar location in Carmel) in Malibu this summer. A second store in Scottsdale, Ariz., is planned for 2010. However, she is adamant on one point: "We will never go into big regional malls," she said. "I have no intention of competing with Neiman Marcus or other huge specialty stores. But I don't have a problem being in the suburbs."

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