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NEW YORK — Estée Lauder unveiled a new generation of merchandising counters at Bloomingdale’s on Thursday, as the first step in a global rollout of 300 installations over three years for the Lauder brand. The cost of the overall project has been estimated by industry sources at $50 million.

This story first appeared in the September 27, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, group president of the Lauder brand as well as MAC Cosmetics and the company’s Fashion Fragrances, co-hosted a ribbon-cutting, along with Bloomingdale’s chairman and chief executive officer Michael Gould, at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship.

Bousquet-Chavanne described the new 1,100-square-foot counter space as serving two purposes. Along with this year’s new advertising campaign and the new product packaging now hitting stores, the new counter look is meant to play a key role in the venerable franchise’s renewal by “signaling the modernity of the brand” to consumers. It also gives beauty advisers a new tool to help stimulate sales.

The counter design was inspired by the glamorous old salons of Estée Lauder herself. The counter is actually an archipelago of four floating units, two of them cosmetics bars, each sporting three makeover stations. The floor was carpeted to make the open, airy design even more inviting. That touch was a Lauder first.

Gould seemed delighted to overhear a reporter remark that the new counter looked larger than its predecessor. “Since perception is reality, it’s reality,” he beamed at the beginning of his speech, noting later that the counter is actually a little smaller, but it will be more productive. “It is a thousand times better than what we had before,” he said, later adding that “it’s clean and it’s easy for the customer to shop.” The design is also “airy, light and open,” he said, declaring that “this is totally updated Lauder.”

While Bousquet-Chavanne pointed out that this was the first store in the world to receive the new look, he pointed out that the customer reaction is all that matters. On that front, he reported overhearing a customer expressing surprise that there was a Lauder counter in that location, even though all it did was replace an older version. “It’s all about recruiting new customers,” he said.

Gould strongly alluded to increased business, but he gave no numbers. The Bloomingdale’s counter started operating three weeks ago and there has been a 25 percent positive shift in business, according to sources, who estimate that Lauder is shooting for a 15 percent gain as the counters roll out around the world.