By  on December 8, 2006

Call it counter intelligence.

Chanel has redesigned its counters in specialty stores, in an effort to provide a luxurious, boutique-like atmosphere, said Christine Dagousset, executive vice president of fragrance and beauty for Chanel.

"The counter experience is very important," said Dagousset, who looked at the brand's North American counter designs with fresh eyes after joining Chanel's U.S. team from Paris last year. "We believe the customer must have the best experience at counter, and the counter design is a big part of that."

Furniture in the new design was loosely inspired by the studio of Dominique Moncourtois, international director of Chanel makeup creation. Custom-made pieces reference Chanel's icons — quilted chairs, tweed-upholstered stools, lacquered tables and camellia-etched mirrors among them, said Lyle Saunders, vice president of creative services for Chanel. A separate vanity area and dressing table is devoted to private makeup applications, while a separate area for skin care allows ample space to take clients through the brand's skin care range. A fragrance bar will feature Chanel's best-selling fragrance on an illuminated shelf. At the back of the installation, a library wall features books and other reference materials about founder Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, and a bowl near the cash register will hold the product of the moment — such as Black Satin nail polish — which customers can buy on impulse. LCD panels built into the space will feature current ad campaigns and movies, such as Nicole Kidman's Chanel No.5 campaign.

"The space is meant to be more like a boutique and less like a commercial installation," Saunders added.

The new design has just rolled out at Saks Fifth Avenue doors in New Orleans and Boston; the next installation is slated for Tuesday at Saks' Columbus, Ohio, store. A few more stores are planned for early next year, although Dagousset plans to evaluate the performance of the first doors before rolling out too many others. "Our goal is not to roll out everywhere, but to be very selective," she said. It is likely that stores in Europe and Asia eventually will adapt the design for their doors, she added.

The new design is part of a strategy the brand is putting together to better serve customers, said Dagousset. "We are putting a lot of effort in training our beauty team and animating the stores," she added.

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