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By Julie Naughton
This story first appeared in the September 27, 2002 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
CHICAGO — The grande dame of Chicago beauty retailing, Marshall Field’s on State Street, has just gotten a multimillion dollar makeover — and it’s expected to trigger a bonanza.
Marshall Field’s, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, has just completed an overhaul of the beauty department of its State Street flagship here, designed to carry the venerable Midwestern retailer well into the next part of the century. While plans were first taken to the drawing board nearly two years ago, actual construction in the department began roughly nine months ago and was completed Monday.
While none of the executives interviewed would comment on budgets, sources say that, all told, more than $15 million was invested in overhauling the State Street store’s beauty department.
“The redesign is intended to celebrate the history of this store, as well as plan for business for the future,” said Linda Ahlers, president of Marshall Field’s, at the unveiling of the beauty department Tuesday night. “It provides guests with an optimal overall shopping experience. This is the first step in a series of planned renovations that will pioneer new offerings at Field’s.” Other upcoming installations, she noted, include a Thomas Pink boutique and a completely renovated 35,000-square-foot children’s department.
The retailer’s parent company, the Minneapolis-based Target Corporation, while publicly focusing much of its efforts on its profitable mass-market side, has also been quietly touching up its department store division. The company, which previously operated department stores under the Field’s, Dayton’s and Hudson’s nameplates, finished converting all department store locations to the Field’s nameplate less than a year ago.
Field’s, one of the largest individual department store operations in the U.S., is reported to have annual total sales of more than $2.8 billion generated from more than 14 million square feet of retail space at 64 stores in eight states.
And the Target Corporation has been making a substantial investment in spiffing up Field’s historical flagship here over the past few years, beauty being the latest segment of that campaign. The 22,900-square-foot shoe department was completely overhauled two years ago, while last year at this time the retailer was putting the finishing touches on 28, a store-in-store boutique devoted to high-end designer apparel, and overhauling its bridal boutique.
Now, it’s beauty’s turn. Finished this week, the renovation expands the beauty department by about 20 percent, from about 23,000 square feet to more than 27,300 square feet.
The store’s overall selling space is comprised of approximately 1 million square feet.
While beauty is said to account for about 13 percent of overall sales volume in each store, that number varies widely depending on store assortments. State Street, due to its size and variety of merchandise, is said to be under that corporate average for beauty, although sources believe the overhaul will bring the State Street’s ratio up to or past the corporate average of 13 percent.
While he wouldn’t quantify the figure with numbers, Dave Steiner, divisional merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrances for Field’s, said that the overhaul could grow State Street’s beauty business by 20 percent or more.
While preserving much of the State Street store’s original architectural details — including its historical Corinthian columns, marble inlaid floor and Art Deco elevator — the overhaul is also designed to make space for the new: namely, about 10 brands that have not been in the store before. Several of them are either department store exclusives or this is the first time they have appeared in a Chicago department store.
New brands entering State Street include Stila, Bobbi Brown, Tony & Tina, Joey New York and Versace. The department will also be the first to roll out Chanel’s new store-in-store beauty concept design, set to be unveiled in November. Field’s will also feature several other department store firsts: the first store-in-store boutique in the U.S. for Qiora and the department store door premieres for Nars and Juvena in the U.S.
Last renovated in the mid-Eighties, the beauty department remodeling changed the old design’s wide cases and mahogany fixturing to slimmer, white cases. Aisle space between displays has doubled — from 5 to 6 feet between cases to 11 feet — and space behind the cases has also sharply increased, designed to offer semiprivate areas for consultations and demonstrations. To give the department a streamlined, pulled-together look, a limited amount of flexibility was allowed in fixturing. “Basically, this is a Marshall Field’s environment with vendor enhancements,” said Jon Jones, senior visual specialist for cosmetics for Field’s.
“What we’ve done is expand both shoppability and productivity,” added Paul Calderon, director of store planning for Field’s. “In particular, we have increased productivity in the perimeters of the department.” The perimeter houses several store-in-store concepts — including a large Origins boutique, the Qiora space and the upcoming Chanel concept area. Several of the department’s new brands, including Stila, are placed near the doors, “which highlights to consumers that we’re now carrying these brands,” said Steiner.
Several big-volume sellers for Field’s — including Clinique, Estée Lauder and Lancôme — have both freestanding assisted-sell units and nearby traditional counters on the floor. “This offers us the ability to service guests who know exactly what they want and want to buy it quickly, as well as guests who prefer to shop with the assistance of a sales representative,” said Katie Erickson, senior vice president of marketing and visual presentation for Field’s.
Fragrances are showcased in a separate area of the floor, formerly used to house designer handbags. Of the flood of new fall fragrances, Steiner said he is “pleasantly surprised at how well they are all doing.” Standouts include Chanel’s Chance, Donna Karan’s Black Cashmere, Dior Addict, Kenneth Cole’s masterbrand, Liz Claiborne’s Bora Bora, Ralph Lauren’s Polo Blue and Glow by J.Lo. He is also set to roll out Dior Addict and new scents from Lacoste, Gucci and YSL within the next several weeks.
Field’s has also set aside a new, dedicated space for the lucrative Generation-Y consumer. While some fragrances appear both in this area and in the fragrance bar, Jones noted that grouping all brands with Generation-Y appeal “offers the ability to better service this consumer.” There are also a few special touches here: a seated counter area in the middle of the space that is reminiscent of a coffee bar, a sound system that is separate from the sound system belonging to the rest of the beauty department and funky area rugs.
A flower vendor, Uroda, has also been placed in the beauty department mix. The vendor, which can deliver to locations within the Loop, works with Field’s during its annual Flower Show.
Calderon noted that elements of the State Street redesign will likely be rolled out to additional Field’s doors, specifically the combinations of assisted sell-caseline sales setups that it has for Lancôme, Lauder and Clinique, and the colorways of the department. “It will vary from location to location, but we will incorporate successful elements into our other stores,” he said. None, however, will rival the architectural detailing of the historical State Street store: “We felt so strongly about preserving the unique elements of this space that we made a substantial investment to restore, rather than replace, many things, including the original marble floors,” added Calderon.
The desire to preserve history yet offer an up-to-date shopping experience is common to all of Field’s recent State Street remodeling projects, said Ralph Hughes, Field’s regional director for the State Street store, noting that the beauty department’s renovation “is part of our ongoing commitment to our flagship store.”
“We’re excited about this renovation because we feel it offers a very special, guest-friendly atmosphere,” said Hughes. “We see the reinvention of the State Street store as part of the movement toward reinventing beauty retailing in department stores. We’re offering exclusive brands, guest-focused merchandise and exceptional service.”
One of the focal points of the new department is actually an old feature: the Tiffany glass dome, which arcs seven stories above the beauty floor.
First installed in 1907, the glass is said to be the largest unbroken piece of Tiffany glass in the world, and covers about 6,000 square feet, containing about 1.6 million pieces of glass. In a family-style tie-in, glass artist Rodman Gilder Miller — great-grandson of Louis Comfort Tiffany — has created 30 Art Nouveau-style glass pieces for the new cosmetics-counter cases. And Miller isn’t the only glass artist featured in the department: Joseph Rossano, who also serves as the program director of Waterford Crystal’s artist in residence program, has created more than 60 glass pieces for the department, including 13 miniatures, 3 chandeliers, 21 vessels and 24 valances. Both artists are based near Seattle.
The area under the Tiffany dome is “wired for sound,” said Jones, noting that the space can also accommodate banners and TV screens. A second area, home to several smaller brands including Frédéric Fekkai, is also set up as an event area, with rolling caselines, a rolling cashwrap and easy-to-convert banner rods. “We’ve found that our guests respond very well to personal appearances and events, so in the redesign, we made sure to plan plenty of space to accommodate those desires,” said Jones.
That will come in handy for the slew of upcoming personal appearances that are scheduled both around the opening of the department and the celebration of Field’s 150th anniversary. They include: an appearance by designer Kenneth Cole, who will sign bottles of his new fragrance masterbrand today; a cosmetics trend fashion show and breakfast co-sponsored by Vogue, which is set for Saturday; an October appearance by Evelyn Lauder, senior corporate vice president for The Estée Lauder Cos., and actress Elizabeth Hurley, as well as special events from a number of vendors, including Qiora, Shiseido, Fashion Fair, Borghese, BeneFit, LaPrairie, Joey New York, Elizabeth Arden, Clarins, Origins and Calvin Klein. At a pre-opening party Monday night, Qiora showed off to the press what it will be offering to the public this weekend: a harmonic facial-massage combination.
The public is being made aware of these events through a number of means, including a direct-mail catalog, highlighting the department’s new brands, which was sent late last week to more than 500,000 Field’s customers, noted Erickson.
“The tag line we’re using is: ‘It’s a Thing of Beauty,’” Erickson said.”And it is.”