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Douglas Debuts New Retail Concept in Milan

The restyling hinges on a clearer division of product categories, a more essential layout and the implementation of a beauty lounge.

MILAN After Berlin, German beauty chain Douglas has debuted its new retail concept in Italy.

On Wednesday, the company reopened the doors of its flagship here, located in the buzzing Corso Buenos Aires shopping street, debuting both a new look and a revamped assortment of brands.

“We decided to launch this new concept in this store because it’s among our two or three best located units in Italy, for sure the best one in Milan,” said Douglas Italia chief executive officer Fabio Pampani, praising its position midway between the city center and the populated shopping district as well as the visibility of its windows.

Mirroring the interior concept launched in Berlin, the store intends to enhance the customer experience through a clearer division of product categories, a more essential and modular layout juxtaposing gray concrete and pastel tones with brass elements, and the implementation of a beauty lounge offering cosmetic treatments.

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In particular, the central entrance divides the space into two parts: dominated by white furniture, the right side is dedicated to skin-care products, including brands spanning from Kiehl’s, Sensai, La Mer and Sisley to Maison Bio, Rodial, Alma K and Filorga.

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This area also showcases two new brands Douglas will be selling exclusively in Italy: the vegan beauty label “One.Two.Free!” and doctor Susanne Von Schmiedeberg’s line Dermacosmetics.

Inside the revamped Douglas store in Milan.
Inside the revamped Douglas store in Milan. Courtesy of Douglas

Makeup is displayed on the left side of the store, showcasing a popping black corner by MAC Cosmetics as well as branded shelves by It Cosmetics and Honest Beauty flanking the ones of Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Armani Beauty, Dior and Chanel. Vegan and cruelty-free makeup brand Lime Crime has been added to the assortment with an exclusive agreement.

“The truth is that clean and vegan beauty labels are not a trend anymore, they are a reality and here to stay. Our customers request them and we can’t ignore these demands, so we’re definitely committed to widening our assortment,” said Pampani, who confirmed that skin care is one of the best-performing categories in Douglas’ stores.

To complete the offer, the revamped flagship’s basement showcases premium fragrances, divided into men’s and women’s categories through gray and pastel pink displays, respectively, while a Fragrances Bar station offers niche scents.

“Our scouting activity is done internationally, but in Italy we get contacted by many companies because they recognize us as a leading retailer for this industry,” said Pampani, referencing the chain’s widespread presence in the country.

The executive also explained how the scouting operations move on two parallel tracks. “On one hand, we have brands already well-known and successful abroad but that lack distribution in Italy or choose us to launch their latest products exclusively,” said Pampani, mentioning The Ordinary and It Cosmetics for skin care and makeup, respectively, as well as revealing that the new fragrance of Philipp Plein will be exclusively available at Douglas stores starting from Feb. 25.

“On the other hand, there are small, niche brands, still unknown to the masses, that have peculiar and specific assets we like and look for, so we decide to add them and promote them, providing also credibility in return,” he added.

Asked about the three main assets a beauty retailer has to have to properly compete in the current market, Pampani put aesthetics at the top of his list. “To have a beautiful store is essential, it is everything. And I’m talking about any particular style but interior concepts have to be tasteful. In that case, even if customers don’t like the specific style particularly, they objectively recognize it as a good environment,” said Pampani.

The second asset is represented by the assortment, “which has to accommodate the increasingly complicated demands of customers, as it has to be both deep and wide,” said the executive, adding that the staff is the third essential element. “At the end of the day, customers return to a brick-and-mortar environment because of the people and the added value of the human aspect they experience while shopping, otherwise they would all buy on e-commerce platforms.”

Inside the revamped Douglas store in Milan.
Inside the revamped Douglas store in Milan. Courtesy Photo

To this end, the revamped store also debuted an area dedicated to the Beauty Lounge, a format already implemented in the other 44 Douglas flagships across Italy to offer face and body treatments, nail services, makeup sessions, epilation, and custom consultations on skin care and makeup products and routines.

“The purpose of this area is not to enhance profitability but customers’ fidelity. If we manage to achieve so, profits will inevitably follow,” noted Pampani.

Prices of the beauty services were also studied to be approachable, starting from 10 euros to 25 euros for makeup sessions and lessons up to 200 euros for packages of 10 manicure treatments and 500 euros for expansive wedding beauty programs, including in-store trials for the bride and five friends, skin-care consultations and makeup sessions for three people at home the day of the wedding.

Douglas will test and evaluate feedback on the new interior concept for four to six weeks before rolling it out to other key flagships and the three to four openings that are in the pipeline. the retailer currently counts 530 doors across Italy.

As reported, the group made a series of purchases in 2017, including the key acquisition of Leading Luxury Group, the parent company of Limoni and La Gardenia, Italy’s two biggest selective beauty chains in terms of door count with around 500 stores between them. Thanks to the deal, the German beauty retailer’s sale points in the market climbed from 100 doors to 600 units, employing 2,500 people overall. Incidentally, that same year Douglas acquired the Spanish perfumery chains Perfumerias If and Bodybell. Now the beauty giant has a selection of more than 35,000 products sold through 2,400 doors in 24 European countries.

At the end of September 2019, the Italian division of the German retailer registered revenues for 428 million euros, consolidating the figures of the same period in 2018. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization grew 6 percent to 41.4 million euros.

According to Pampani, the long-term mission for the company is to consolidate the current strategies and activities as well as further boosting the omnichannel operations of the company.