NEW YORK — Having named a new president three months ago, Kiehl’s Since 1851 showed off a newly renovated and expanded flagship last night.
Philip Clough started as the new president of Kiehl’s on Oct. 1. He succeeded Edgar Huber, who was named president of L’Oréal’s Luxury Products Division on June 26, and to whom Clough now reports.
“The brand has a terrific future,” said Huber this week, “and Philip will lead it into that future.”
Clough, who formerly had been vice president and general manager of L’Oréal’s Matrix brand, joined L’Oréal in 1985 and has spent the last 15 years in a succession of marketing, management and international posts in the company’s Professional Products Division. He was named worldwide general manager of Kérastase in 1998, and in 2000 became worldwide general manager for Matrix, spearheading its international development initiative.
One of Clough’s first goals for Kiehl’s is to continue its international growth, which kicked into gear after parent company L’Oréal USA acquired the brand in mid-2000 from Jami Morse Heidegger and Klaus Heidegger for an estimated$150 million to $180 million.
However, Clough is determined to build the future international markets in a slow, controlled fashion, although he declined to give a final target number. “We don’t want to rush into any of this,” he said. “We want to build a groundswell of support for the brand in the markets where we’re expanding, and it’s extremely important for us to find the proper locations, as well. And most importantly, we’re not prepared to compromise on customer service, which is one of our key values.”
The brand opened a store in Hong Kong in August of this year, as well as at Harvey Nichols in Manchester, England, the same month. A Paris freestanding store is on the agenda, although Clough wouldn’t give specifics as to when. The brand is already available at Colette and Le Bon Marché in Paris.
These doors follow several others that have opened under L’Oréal leadership. They include a 900-square-foot location that opened in September 2002 in London’s Covent Garden; a store-in-store at Munich’s Ludwig-Beck that opened in October 2002, and a store-in-store at Profumo in Milan that opened in November 2002. Kiehl’s is also available in Berlin at Quartier 206 and Parfums Schnitzler in Düsseldorf.U.S. distribution is also a priority, although Clough emphasized that it would be “controlled and organic. Although we are a brand for everyone, we don’t need to be everywhere.”
In the U.S., Kiehl’s is currently in 146 doors, including Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York, Nordstrom and eight of its own flagships. It also is available on kiehls.com and via catalog and mail order. In addition to the original store in New York, flagships are located in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle and Costa Mesa, Calif.
Neither Huber nor Clough would discuss numbers, but industry sources estimate the brand’s total sales volume is currently between $60 million and $70 million wholesale, with steady growth in the 10 to 20 percent range yearly.
Kiehl’s also is honoring its roots with the recently completed update of its original flagship on Third Avenue here. For its first 107 years, Kiehl’s operated from a site located at 105 Third Avenue. When the original building was demolished in the Fifties, Kiehl’s relocated two doors up, at 109 Third Avenue. In the Seventies, the company entered an accelerated period of growth, expanding its distribution for the first time outside its flagship, into Neiman Marcus. In the Eighties, Kiehl’s began expanding to surrounding buildings, in part to house the company’s extensive collection of vintage motorcycles — collected mainly by Aaron Morse, father of former co-owner Jami Morse Heidegger, as well as her husband, Klaus Heidegger.
“It’s exciting for me to arrive right when the place where the brand was born is being completely restored,” said Clough, adding he sees the newly renovated store as “a laboratory for the future, which allows us insight into our consumers, as well as lets us give back to the local community.”
The latest generation of renovation involved reclaiming the ground floor of the new 105 Third Avenue, bringing the store back into its home space. “The restoration was a long project, but it’s completely true to the spirit of the store,” said Huber. “We’re ready to go into the future with a new retail environment. We wanted to offer a place not only to discover new products, but to come and hang out — to keep the social aspect of the neighborhood alive.”The space now measures 6,740 square feet and is a mix of modern and vintage elements. New additions include additional checkout stations, expanded sampling areas, greater floor space for products and a full-service café. Visual elements inside pay tribute to John Kiehl and the Morse family, the founders of the brand, as well as well-known American writers, poets and songwriters who have lived in the neighborhood — as well as four vintage motorcycles. A time line, running across all three storefronts, highlights historical events since Kiehl’s was founded 153 years ago.
As well, Kiehl’s original space, a location known as Pear Tree Corner, will have its own pear tree-planting ceremony on Nov. 12. Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of what was then called New Amsterdam, had planted the original pear tree on the corner in 1647. The original tree was destroyed in 1867.
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