NEW YORK — Sears has no regrets about its exit from the color cosmetics and treatment sectors.

After six years of trying to develop its proprietary Circle of Beauty concept into a powerhouse destination department, the retailer did an about-face in the fall of 2001. Circle was yanked and plans to bring in Avon’s BeComing line were cancelled. A smattering of other color lines, including Color Me Beautiful and Fetish, were also discontinued.

Since then, said Andrea Goldner, Sears divisional merchandise manager of fragrance, beauty and jewelry, "we have completely retrofitted the department." Beauty now consists of fragrance, bath and cosmetics gift sets at holiday. All is open-sell. To do that, prestige scents are now merchandised in clamshell packaging, following a trend popularized at discounters Wal-Mart and Target.

There is also a strong representation of traditional mass brands like Coty’s The Healing Garden. "We have created an entirely new business model," she said, adding that "it is still an important business for us." Goldner noted that Sears retained its Time Out private label bath line. "We do expect to see [total department] sales grow this year," she said.

And despite the overall weak holiday fragrance season, at Sears "we were very pleased. We fared fairly well," said Goldner, although she declined to provide details. For 2001, analysts estimated Sears beauty sales at $300 million, of which color cosmetics accounted for $50 million.

Looking ahead, Sears is gearing up for the launch of Celine Dion’s first fragrance, which will make its way into stores in April. "We are so excited and encouraged that there is a big launch with the celebrity status of Celine," said Goldner. "It will absolutely help bring more traffic to the department."

It is the first time Coty has introduced a scent specifically for introduction at what it terms mid-tier department stores — such as Sears, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s. Ulta and Sephora also will be among the first to get the scent, which will later be rolled into traditional mass outlets.

"There hasn’t been a whole lot of news, but Coty is always thinking of new ideas," remarked Goldner. "We are planning [Celine] to be the number-one fragrance for us for spring."To support the launch, Sears is using in-store visuals and will include the scent in its print advertising. "There will be hanging banners in mall windows," said Goldner. The introduction will also be tied in with the retailer’s Mother’s Day promotions.

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