EVIAN, France — To Marcel Frydman, a beauty retailer must be part sector expert, part psychologist.

And he should know: Frydman’s been in this business for 18 years, building Marionnaud Parfumeries from scratch to become the 1,084-door perfumery chain it is today.

"Many women come to us when they are worried, down, perhaps even when they are depressed," Frydman, Marionnaud’s president, said during his keynote address. "It is quite common that, in such a case, the client who was not feeling too great leaves the store feeling much better than when she came in."

The secret, he said, is customer service, which leads to customer loyalty. "We all offer more or less the same assortment of products, and the prices are often pretty equivalent," he continued, referring to his fellow retailers. "If one store is more successful, more attractive [to the consumer], it’s because the experience there is more pleasurable."

Marionnaud has been aggressively rolling out its traditional, service-oriented perfumery concept by acquiring and converting existing stores across 13 countries, including France, Switzerland, Italy and Eastern Europe, over the past four years as part of a high-speed expansion plan.

"Consolidation is a sign of our times, across the board in all industries," he said. "I think it’s been a good thing in our industry, as in most."

He did, however, warn that consolidation is not always beneficial. The extinction of independent perfumeries in sparsely populated areas could be detrimental to the beauty industry, he said. "If they were to disappear, the only alternative for the consumer would be to turn to the mass market, and that would be unfortunate for our profession, and it would have disadvantageous effects on small [beauty] manufacturers."

Another danger for the industry, according to Frydman, is the gray market, which increases the pressure on beauty retailers. "We strive to meet qualitative standards that correspond to best practices…but there are plenty of others who couldn’t care less and buy their products on parallel markets," he said.

But despite such woes and the troubled world economy, Frydman said he remains confident the beauty industry will hold its own, as it did in the days of the Gulf War."[Then], we drew the following conclusion: A woman who has to face the worst, most terrible experiences still wears a day cream, a moisturizer, makeup and fragrance," he said.

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