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Bringing Out the Beauty

NEW YORK — "We’ve been playing off Broadway for long enough," deadpanned Robin Burns, as she gave a tour of the expansive beauty section of the new Victoria’s Secret store on 34th Street at Broadway.<br><br>Not only does she have a...

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NEW YORK — “We’ve been playing off Broadway for long enough,” deadpanned Robin Burns, as she gave a tour of the expansive beauty section of the new Victoria’s Secret store on 34th Street at Broadway.

Not only does she have a better location, but it is also her biggest beauty store, measuring 3,200 square feet of selling space. Other large stores within the chain measure only 2,000 square feet.

“This is the biggest store,” noted Burns, president and chief executive officer of Aura Science, Intimate Beauty Corp. and the Victoria’s Secret Beauty unit of Limited Brands.

Part of her enthusiasm was inspired by the location. Some stores along 34th Street have been known to attract as many as 15,000 shoppers a day during the holidays. While Limited Brands does not divulge sales targets, industry sources estimate that the beauty section of the new store could do $4.5 million in annual sales, perhaps even $5 million.

Victoria’s Secret Beauty operates 500 stores that are either completely freestanding, built inside a lingerie unit or located next door to other Victoria’s Secret stores. Then there are another 500 points of sale in which beauty niches are tucked inside lingerie units.

One of the most striking differences with the new store is the emphasis on Victoria’s Secret’s color cosmetics line. A sleek, modern-looking island of six makeup stations has been built to accommodate the 20 makeup artists that have been hired to service customers. The store is geared to do 1,400 makeovers a week. In addition, there are four merchandise counters for makeup.

Sherry Baker, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said that the lip category is “enormous” for the brand, in line with industry trends.

The company has been gradually building its color business. Distribution of the full line has reached 220 stores and the lip color assortment is in 432 units.

While the majority of the company’s beauty volume is still done in fragrance, Burns expects color to claim a larger share of the 34th Street store’s business, owing to the location and the sophistication of Manhattan. She gave no details, but sources estimate that the new store could be doing 30 percent of its volume in color. The share in other stores hovers in the mid-20 percent range.

The decor of the store reflects an evolution in sensibility for the franchise. The beauty areas, designed by Dough Collins, is more neutral in coloration than past stores. Pink has been deemphasized, serving primarily as an accent, while most of the palette is devoted to light cream and black.

Another point of difference in the store can be found in the holiday assortment, which has been greatly expanded. Last year there were two types of coffrets of product miniatures and this year there are five, all of which are aggressively priced from $13.50 to $37.

In addition, fragrance sachets and Christmas trinkets, consisting of small bottles packaged inside tree ornaments, have been added this year. Sachets with the Heavenly fragrance are priced two for $16. Novelty items in the shape of a bra are marked $10.

This year’s special purchase-with-purchase offer is a pair of stuffed dogs, priced $12 with a $50 purchase.

Gift sets and giftable items make up an estimated 30 percent of the inventory and 40 percent of the beauty department is comprised of new merchandise.

At the front of the department is a display of Very Sexy for Her, the new fragrance that went on sale a week ago and reportedly has already logged $1 million in sales, with the possibility of doing $20 million the first year.

Very Sexy will be promoted with an ad and 20 million scented strips in the Victoria’s Secret holiday catalog. Another 30 million scented strips will feature the other fragrances. Burns, who took over the division three years ago when she joined Limited Brands, has typically promoted her fragrance launches by running scented strips in the lingerie catalog, reasoning that her first two consumer targets should be existing beauty customers and then lingerie buyers who had not yet tried the fragrances.

This year she is reaching out to the third group — those who have not bought any Victoria’s Secret merchandise at all. For the first time, she will advertise on TV, with a Dream Angels fragrance spot during the coverage of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show Nov. 20 on CBS. A second spot during that broadcast will make a special offer. Those who register on the Victoria’s Secret Web site will be sent an invitation to visit a store and receive a free 0.5-ounce eau de parfum, with any $35 purchase. The offer will be good for six days — up until Thanksgiving — in a bid to jump start holiday sales.

Baker, who said she is prepared to give away hundreds of thousands of the 0.5-ounce eau de parfums, asserted that the promotion is aimed at encouraging trial and building traffic.

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