By and  on November 25, 2008

NEW YORK — Much like the drugstore’s jumbo electronic billboard that illuminates Times Square, Walgreens’ newly opened flagship here — which is a major reappearance to the neighborhood for the retailer — shines a spotlight on the chain’s focus on beauty.

Just off the escalators to the second floor of the three-level, 16,000-square-foot store is the brightly lit L’Oréal Paris boutique. Measuring 320 square feet in size, the L’Oréal concept includes slide-out shelves, product testers, floor-to-ceiling visuals, streaming video and L’Oréal-trained beauty advisers.

The site at One Times Square, located on 42nd Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, marks Walgreens’ return to a historic location that the chain had occupied from the Thirties through the Seventies. The store is Walgreens’ 11th in Manhattan, and its 53rd unit across all five boroughs, up from 35 two years ago.

The L’Oréal concept further solidifies the long-standing relationship between L’Oréal and Walgreens — Walgreens, now a $59 billion company, was one of the first mass retailers to stock L’Oréal when the brand was imported from France.

Catherine Lindner, Walgreens divisional vice president of marketing development, said L’Oréal had been a great partner to help Walgreens bring a new vision to beauty.

“This store within a store has unique fixturing,” Lindner told a group touring the location, “the only one of its kind in the world.”

L’Oréal tapped experts from Europe for the custom fixturing, designed to replicate upscale beauty displays found abroad. Within the boutique, there is a presentation table in the center, complete with a chair and a mirror, which can be used to tout new items.

It also allows for a comfortable and well-lit space for beauty makeovers. Walgreens beauty advisers, who man the entire department at all times, wear L’Oréal smocks and are trained on L’Oréal products, but also advise on all beauty lines in the store. Among the L’Oréal products featured are Double Extend Beauty Tubes Mascara, Advanced Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Clinical Action and Skin Genesis Pore Minimizing Gel Cleanser.

Lorraine Coyle, vice president of sales for the L’Oréal Paris brand, said the concept’s design, which has been in the works for the last six to eight months, was to further elevate and develop the L’Oréal brand.

“L’Oréal is the largest beauty brand in the mass class of trade,” Coyle said, adding that the concept allows the company to give customers the full expression of the brand. As for whether other boutiques are planned, she said: “We will watch this store, and take the best from it and spread the best to different parts of the country as we look to express our brand in this way.”

Near the L’Oréal display is Walgreens’ European skin care collection with lines such as Institut Arnaud – Paris and Red Water. The products share a low-profile display unit with gift sets and naturally positioned brands. Adjacent to the display is a custom-made end-of-aisle display for Yes to Carrots, which was first launched in the U.S. at Walgreens.

The remaining beauty area stocks the major mass lines as well as Walgreens exclusives,including BioInfusion and Sally Hershberger hair care, which is housed in a 3-foot salon hair care section.

Walgreens’ area beauty supervisor, Joanne Libby, said she is amazed at the beauty business already being done by the store. “People are coming in, experimenting with the items and buying. Many of the tourists come in and comment how much more expensive the lines would be at home and they stock up,” she added, referring to the salon brands.

That said, a great deal of the store is devoted to products for travelers and tourists, such as beauty products in travel sizes and even luggage and apparel.

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