By  on October 9, 2009

LONDON — Liberty is freeing up more space for beauty on its ground floor.

The department store is gearing up to devote an additional 400 square feet of selling space to scents and fragrance-oriented products. From November, the area, previously used for storage purposes, will house a gifting space for the holidays curated by Luella Bartley. But in the spring, it will morph into a beauty room linking the store’s existing Body and Soul department, which stocks bath and body products and candles, to its fragrance room.

“We’re going to connect two parts of our business, and we will pick up a lot of real estate,” said Ed Burstell, Liberty’s buying director.

“The idea is to make it a highly appealing space,” said Gina Cowey, the store’s beauty buyer, adding the reorganization of the area will allow customers entering the store’s Carnaby Street doorway to see and access Liberty’s fragrance assortment more easily.

The Carnaby Street entrance, which opens onto a vibrant neighborhood packed with denim, sportswear and beauty shops as well as cafes, also will be widened.

While plans have yet to be finalized, the additional area could house brands such as Comme des Garçons and Maison Francis Kurkdjian. The lineup will change seasonally.

“Based on its productivity, the fragrance room has now outgrown its space,” said Burstell. “Productivity per square foot for fragrance is through the roof.”

“For its size, [the fragrance department] punches above its weight,” added Cowey.

In addition to recouping additional selling space, Cowey and Burstell have been concentrating on reinvigorating Liberty’s existing format. In June, the store revamped the beauty floor by removing some shelving from windows to allow for more natural light and culling brands deemed out of step with Liberty’s positioning.

“It’s not that they were not great products,” said Cowey, noting about 20 lines were trimmed. “They just were not special enough for Liberty.”

The store’s buying team has since focused on beefing up its brand lineup by at once showcasing tried and trusted favorites, such as Eve Lom skin care and Robert Piguet fragrances, and taking on up-and-coming players, such as Le Métier de Beauté makeup; Oskia and Euoko skin care, plus Strange Beautiful nail polishes.

“Right now, it’s innovation and creativity that’s going to give [people] a compelling reason to shop,” said Burstell. “You need to give customers a reason to buy.”

The store will carry Maison Francis Kurkdjian fragrances and products for the home beginning Oct. 22, and will round out its Frédéric Malle offering with new launches, including fragrance diffusers, candles and scented rubber mats, from Nov. 1.

“The idea of nesting is an overriding theme,” said Burstell. “Fewer people are moving now, so they’re having to enhance where they live.”

The helter-skelter economy notwithstanding, Liberty, which industry sources estimate generates annual beauty sales of 10.5 million pounds, or $16.9 million at current exchange, is forecasting growth for the category.

“We’re bracing for banner holidays. We’re cautiously bullish,” said Burstell. “We’re growing in double digits in a world that’s flat or down — and that’s without additional space.”

Cowey noted the store recently sold its most expensive beauty item ever — a RéVive Peau Magnifique Youth Recruit serum, which weighed in at 900 pounds, or $1,446.

“We’re in a unique [position] in that we’re small enough to incubate brands, but at the same time, we can see ourselves becoming a spot where other retailers look to for innovation,” said Burstell. “That means constantly having to be better. We’re up for the challenge — it doesn’t scare us.”

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