By and  on November 17, 2005

NEW YORK — Henri Bendel unveiled a new, larger beauty department at its flagship store here Wednesday night, the first step in an overhaul of the store as a whole and a blueprint for future Bendel's.

The overarching concept executives are forging here is intended to guide the look of new Bendel's locations that parent company Limited Brands plans to open in the next few years. The Columbus, Ohio-based company, which opened a second Bendel's location at Easton Town Center near its hometown a year ago, has said it is identifying locations for additional Bendel's stores for construction next year.

"We took a look at the flagship and wanted it to be an umbrella for the balance of the stores," Ed Bucciarelli, president and chief executive officer of Henri Bendel, said of the New York renovation during an interview Monday.

While Bucciarelli, who joined the company last summer after 10 years with Liz Claiborne, said he believes the U.S. market could sustain as many as 200 Henri Bendel stores, he noted such expansion wasn't likely within the next two to three years. "I'll concentrate on the first 10 [stores]," he said, adding additional units could be opened here.

"Starting the [flagship] renovation with beauty made sense," Bucciarelli said. "Beauty is a big part of the business and heritage [of Bendel's]."

He said that after Christmas, attention would be shifted to the store's fashion departments. Bucciarelli declined to go into specifics about what categories would be renovated after the beauty department is completed, but executives plan to regroup after the holidays to finalize additional phases of storewide renovation.

The revamp of the beauty department began in early August and is expected to be wrapped up this week. The redo expands the amount of floor space devoted to beauty by 2,250 square feet to a total of 5,900 square feet.

Major changes include the expansion of the category up to the second floor, the launch of established and new brands, and a wider focus on fragrance and skin care. Also, there are plans for a Frédéric Fekkai salon and spa to be opened on the fourth floor in spring.

Bendel's new-look main floor features modern, white and sleek black alcoves, which are built amid light-colored flooring and the beige columns of the existing building. "It eliminates the clutter but not the energy," Bucciarelli said of the design, which was handled in-house.

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