By and  on January 16, 2007

PARIS — France's leading perfumery chain, Marionnaud Parfumeries, is getting a makeover. Its nips and tucks might force some others in Europe to take a good, hard look at their own retail concepts.

Marionnaud, which gradually built strength across France — and Europe — as the mom-and-pop store for beauty, is entering the modern age with a more consistent, professional approach that focuses on hands-on service.

In a press conference held in Rungis, on the outskirts of Paris Thursday, Marionnaud (which is owned by A.S. Watson — the retail division of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.) unveiled to the press two full-size models of the company's new perfumery concept, due to go into beta test publicly during the first half of 2007.

Located in a huge hangar in an area full of warehouses, the 4,220-square-foot and 1,335-square-foot perfumeries are two iterations of the new Marionnaud retail concept — that soon will include a signature beauty institute — to be tested and tweaked on a regular basis. So far, the company has invested about $3.9 million in market research for the "laboratory."

"Why a lab?" Laurence Paganini, managing director of Marionnaud France, asked rhetorically. He explained that the company believes in the importance of testing retail ideas on volunteers. Marionnaud has hosted numerous groups of 30 people each that have included beauty manufacturers, plus "Marionnaud shoppers, ex-Marionnaud shoppers and Sephora shoppers," according to one executive, referring to Marionnaud's prime competitor in France. Sephora follows in market share but has been pioneering retail concepts, including recently focusing on beauty services and niche brands.

The space is also used as a research center to evaluate future consumer needs, ways to update the stores and as a site to train Marionnaud beauty advisers.

Paganini said Marionnaud has learned consumers believe the perfumery's strengths are its accessibility, both in terms of geography — there are 1,250 of its stores stretching across most of Europe, of which about half are in France — and the personal attention it proffers, plus its professionalism.

"A new focus will be on pleasure," said Paganini.

To help add this facet, Marionnaud signed Philippe Kauffmann, of Atelier K., who redesigned the perfumery's logo and retail space, keeping its new motto, "Take care of yourself," in mind.

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