By  on September 11, 2009

LONDON — House of Fraser is banking on a prestige positioning and the prospect of some in-store pampering to make it a primping hot spot.

“We want to be the U.K.’s number-one premium department store destination,” said Debbie Beaumont-Howell, head buyer for beauty and accessories at the 62-door British department store chain. “Service is key. Beauty is the most transferable category, as a Clinique lipstick is the same color if you buy it in Boots or in Harrods. We want people to want to come to House of Fraser to shop because of the in-store experience. It’s about having a point of difference and a service-oriented environment.”

One element of the shopping experience in focus is in-store services. Beaumont-Howell plans to open up to potentially eight Aveda treatment areas in House of Fraser’s network of doors by next year. On Thursday, Clarins will unveil a facial concept room in the chain’s Cardiff store, which is being refurbished. In addition, this summer, 20 percent of House of Fraser’s Oxford Street store’s 12,500-square-foot beauty department was given over to an area comprising threading, false eyelash application and manicure services, as well as New CID, a brand offering makeover sessions along with an assortment of color cosmetics products. House of Fraser also has DestinationSkin clinics, which offer treatments such as microdermabrasion and Botox, in a number of its stores.

“Services are one of the biggest growth areas for us in beauty,” she said. “Our nail and brow bars have been very successful and exceeded all our forecasts.”

Beaumont-Howell declined to discuss figures. However, industry sources estimate House of Fraser rings up annual beauty sales of 250 million pounds, or $414 million at current exchange. Those sources indicate the chain registered a 2 percent uptick in beauty revenues in the first half of 2009 and full-year growth could come in at plus-5 percent.

As well as offering an extensive services menu, Beaumont-Howell aims to deliver a mix of department store stalwarts, such as Clarins, Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Chanel and Clinique, plus quirkier offerings. “We enjoy very large market share with Viktor & Rolf,” she said, adding the store also experienced a strong launch for Marc Jacobs’ Lola.

“The success of any launch is in repeat purchases,” continued Beaumont-Howell. “That’s why we don’t do celebrity fragrances, since they often don’t have longevity.”

To add punch to fragrance bars, many House of Fraser doors recently began displaying scents by powerhouse brands — including Chanel, Christian Dior, Givenchy and Guerlain — to fragrance departments, as well as on the brands’ individual counters. “It’s a no-brainer,” said Beaumont-Howell.

She added House of Fraser is rolling out the “beauty vision” it introduced early last year, which incorporates floor-to-ceiling counters and larger brand footprints, as stores are refurbished. La Prairie opened its largest retail space in Europe in House of Fraser’s Oxford Street store in June. “It allows us to showcase brands in an effective way,” said Beaumont-Howell. “It’s very impactful.”



Despite forecasting a particularly competitive selling season, she is bullish about the holidays. As well as unveiling the spruced-up Cardiff store this month, House of Fraser will draft Tracy Van Heusden, formerly a Harvey Nichols beauty buyer, to its team. “We’re looking forward to a very good season,” Beaumont-Howell said.

House of Fraser was acquired by the Highland consortium in 2006. Icelandic bank Landsbanki became one of its shareholders earlier this year when Baugur, which had held a stake in the chain as well as other British retail concerns, filed for bankruptcy.

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