DOCTOR ON CALL: New York City-based dermatologist Dennis Gross was working late Thursday night, booked solid with appointments.

While he sat in a New York City office downtown, he conducted 25 personal skin care consultations with customers at Sephora’s location in The Shops at North Bridge, in Chicago, via Skype, in high definition. The five-minute consultations took place between 7 and 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, and included a skin care evaluation and advice on treating signs of aging, breakouts and enlarged pores, as well as other areas of concern.

In a nod to the high-tech concept, the consultation was virtually free. Sephora customers received the service at no cost with the purchase of any Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare product. A visit to Gross’ practice for an in-person consultation costs about $300. The Skype consultations were a first for both Gross and Sephora.

“We appreciate the fresh and unique approach to client engagement that Dr. Gross is exploring,” said Allison Slater, Sephora’s vice president of retail marketing. “Engaging with clients through different mediums like Skype opens the door to new event formats that enable our brand partners to have a personal experience with our clients when they are not able to be in the same city.”

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BUMBLE’S BUZZ: Since Bumble and bumble launched in Sephora last year, the hair care brand has rung in sales 20 to 30 percent above plan, said president Peter Lichtenthal.

“Definitely, styling is where the strength is and that’s what we expected,” said Margarita Arriagada, senior vice president of merchandising at Sephora, where Bumble is now carried in 285 doors. The best-selling Bumble product at Sephora is Surf Spray, which is also in the top five products for the entire hair care category at the retailer, followed by Texture Hair (Un) Dressing Crème and Thickening Hairspray.

From August to January, Bumble conducted a test of 80 salons carrying its products to determine if the brand’s entrance into Sephora would cannibalize the salons’ business. “The [cannibalization] risk never panned out,” said Lichtenthal of the test’s findings. “We would have not gone into full [Sephora] distribution if we couldn’t drive new business in their salons and help their businesses rather than hurt them.”

Lichtenthal, who was at Sephora’s Hollywood & Highland store in Los Angeles June 24 for an event in partnership with Elle magazine that featured Rolando Beauchamp and other hairstylists demonstrating the latest trends, said that Bumble’s network of 2,400 salons, half of which participate in Bumble’s referral program at Sephora, has not shrunk as a result of the brand’s entrance into Sephora. Instead, he said, “When we have sent stylists in to do events, their retail productivity has increased.”

LUXURY RISING: Self-professed “Valley Girl” Carol Hamilton, president of L’Oreal USA’s luxury products division, returned to her native West Coast last week for a CEW Women in Beauty Series discussion, entitled “Redefining Luxury,” on June 23 at Santa Monica’s Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

During the discussion, which was moderated by Martha McCully, Hamilton underscored the strength of the luxury category in beauty. Although she acknowledged beauty consumers are channel hopping, she said, “Luxury is the fastest growing channel.” She explained the luxury beauty sector’s growth is due to consumers’ interest in advanced skin care and product information.

 

“The consumer is craving information. She’s craving services. She’s craving being taken care of, and mass doesn’t do that,” said Hamilton, who pointed out that 60 percent of consumers go online to unearth more information after a luxury beauty purchase. Hamilton also highlighted the importance of making beauty retailing entertaining or, in her words, fostering “retail-tainment.” As an example, she mentioned Kiehl’s letting customers take pictures on its iconic motorcycle at its Third Avenue flagship in New York to celebrate the brand’s 160th anniversary.

“We want to go beyond the product to create this surprising and exciting relationship with the consumer,” said Hamilton. Today, she stressed, the luxury consumer “is much more after that authentic, high-quality brand experience.”

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