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Critical Mass: Beauty in Bed Bath & Beyond

TOTOWA, N.J. — Beauty is hopping into bed with Bed Bath & Beyond.<br><br>The retailer, which operates 427 stores across the country, acquired Harmon, a health and beauty care retailer, in March. It was quickly predicted Bed Bath & Beyond would...

TOTOWA, N.J. — Beauty is hopping into bed with Bed Bath & Beyond.

The retailer, which operates 427 stores across the country, acquired Harmon, a health and beauty care retailer, in March. It was quickly predicted Bed Bath & Beyond would expand its beauty presence.

But the 60,000-square-foot store here, opened two weeks ago in a former Bradlees site, has more than just a smattering of beauty products. There is a 4,000-square-foot Harmon store within the store, situated on the right side of the store and including a glass fragrance counter, specialty cosmetics brands and rows and rows of salon hair care. Signage hangs over the area to alert shoppers to the fact that this is a Harmon department.

Many of the same items are featured in a freestanding Harmon unit just a mile down the road, but consumers appear to appreciate the convenience of one-stop shopping for home and beauty needs. By offering beauty merchandise, Bed Bath & Beyond offers a competitive edge against its rival Linens ’n Things — also situated a short hop away on bustling Route 46 — which sells only a small supply of bath and aromatherapy merchandise with its home items.

By acquiring the 27-store Harmon, Bed Bath & Beyond is able to edge into the lucrative beauty business without having to establish an identity. Harmon is well known for its vast selection and keen prices in its operating markets of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. There are currently two Bed Bath & Beyond units sporting Harmon departments, and the company won’t comment on future Harmon expansion plans. The other store with a Harmon is in Iselin, N.J. According to Ron Curwin, Bed Bath & Beyond’s chief financial officer and treasurer, the other installation is in an existing store, and the department is located to the left of the entrance. The departments are experimental and the company is assessing the success of the mixture as well as which location works better — the right or left side.

The Harmon at this store offers prestige fragrances such as Estée Lauder’s Youth Dew priced at $23.99 for a 2.2-ounce eau de parfum. There are also specialty items such as Frownies, which are said to help reduce wrinkles, for $13.29 (144 pads). Peg cosmetics are featured from leaders such as L’Oréal, Revlon and Maybelline, but also niche brands including Petunia’s Just Having Fun, Jordana, Sorme, Palladio, Irene Gari, Rubigo, Traffic Jam, Lord & Berry, Prestige Cosmetics and Diane Dubeau. Harmon has always been associated with offering shoppers alternative brands, and that’s carried out within this store as well. “They’ve done a nice job,” said Myra Solomon, vice president of Just Having Fun, which markets Petunia. She said the match of Bed Bath & Beyond and Harmon is indicative of retailers looking for new revenue streams and consumers looking for convenient shopping.

This story first appeared in the August 2, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

There’s also a huge assortment of professional nail products including Nailtiques. Select Avon items such as Anew are even offered. Anew’s Retroactive 1.7-ounce cream sells here for $17.99.

In addition to cosmetics, there are several aisles of traditional drugstore fare such as shampoos (including professional names such as Aussie, TIGI and Artec), toothpastes, sun care, hair color and razors. The products are stocked high — almost ten feet in the air — so shelves can be quickly restocked. Harmon duplicates the use of bins for tiny trial sizes in the department, a popular feature at its traditional stores.

On a recent visit, two staffers patrolled the beauty department and handily answered questions about products. The entire store was well staffed with employees actively helping shoppers. Curwin said that is a hallmark of Bed Bath & Beyond’s stores which it hopes to duplicate at Harmon.

Beauty isn’t the only category going beyond the traditional assortment for the chain. This store has a massive snack department at the entrance of the store and an upscale crystal section.