RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Elvis was spotted last month at Town & Country Apothecary and Fine Cosmetics, an upscale drugstore in this affluent town.

He was, appropriately, filling prescriptions. The beauty consultants donned go-go boots, miniskirts and thick eyeliner. The store’s own Shangri-Las serenaded customers who flocked to the store for makeovers courtesy of Stila and consultations by representatives of Bumble & bumble.

The tribute to the Sixties was one of many events staged by this aggressive independent drugstore. Not only did the event attract shoppers pleased to find upscale beauty products in a downtown drugstore, but also Town & Country was able to raise $3,000 for Gilda’s Club, a haven for cancer patients with an outpost in nearby Hackensack.

Suppliers to Town & Country donated gift baskets that were auctioned off during the event, which stretched from noon to 7 p.m. on Sept. 20. “We try very hard to be creative,” said Diana Dolling-Ross, the merchandise manager for beauty and the brainchild behind the Sixties event. More than 40 customers signed up for makeovers by Stila and more than 200 people crowded into the store. Dolling-Ross estimated sales were up in the double digits compared with a typical Saturday. “Plus, we know we had many people make a mental note to come back and buy something,” she said.

The Sixties salute is just one of many events staged by Town & Country. This month, the store is offering a beauty and health seminar. Often Dolling-Ross is approached about the link between health issues such as menopause and beauty.

There are also meetings of Trendsetters — local teens that help shape the beauty selection at Town & Country. “We feel this is important because they are our customers of tomorrow,” said Dolling-Ross, a merchant who has her fingers on the pulse of her clientele. The youth-oriented lines include Noode and Bloom as well as the various acne remedies from leading skin care firms.

Although the sign says “pharmacy,” Town & Country is truly a beauty specialty retailer. Beauty commands as much as 40 percent of the store’s 3,300 squarefeet of selling space and produces more than 15 percent of sales.Dolling-Ross has worked hard to attract premium brands that don’t typically consider selling in an Rx environment. With experience in department store retailing with Saks Fifth Avenue, Dolling-Ross has fought hard to prove to suppliers that the store’s staff is well qualified to sell pricy beauty lines. Today the selection includes Estée Lauder, Stila, Paula Dorf, Lancôme, Clinique, La Mer, Lucky Chick, Darphin, B. Kamins and Clarins. There’s a full array of fragrances and bath products. Also, Dolling-Ross is slowly adding more and more men’s skin care products to the mix.

Although the store does a healthy pharmacy business, beauty continues to grow in sales and footage. Over the past two years, Dolling-Ross removed one gondola to make room for more upscale fixtures and space for customer and adviser consultations.

There are 11 beauty advisers on staff who clearly know their Clarins from their B. Kamins and who have built credibility with customers who have their choice of a number of nearby department stores. Town & Country is less than 15 minutes away from Paramus — the home of several shopping centers. “We call people when we get something new and many people wait for launches until we have them,” she said.

Although many retailers have seen sales of fragrances and bath items plateau, Dolling-Ross has extended both areas with success. “For example, the fragrance Clean sold out immediately when we got it,” she said.

Salon hair care has also been sensational for the store. Mass hair care brands have been edited from the mix in favor of true salon lines such as Bumble & bumble. That is similar to when the store first edited out mass market cosmetics brands in favor of prestige lines. In a sense, Town & Country is a return to what independent pharmacies once were — downtown locales where customers could get quality beauty lines with the support of well-trained staff. “And, our associates just don’t sell one line,” said Dolling-Ross. “They know about all of our lines and don’t just push one.”

To keep up with department stores, Town & Country offers gifts-with-purchase and other promotional tools. “And, the beauty of it is we don’t need the gifts to sell the products,” she added.She admitted it was difficult at first to woo the premium brands. “The industry has a preconceived notion of a pharmacy,” she explained. But once she showed off what the store had to offer, manufacturers lined up for counter space. Always on the prowl for new ways to market, Dolling-Ross has gift guides with holiday suggestions for teachers, as well as mailings to the 6,000 people with house accounts.

Whether revisiting the Sixties or looking for ways to merge beauty and hormone replacement therapy, Town & Country exemplifies the many ways drugstores can bring back the vitality to beauty.

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