Duane Reade’s new Skin Fitness Centre.

NEW YORK — Duane Reade has always been known for serving its savvy customers with a wider than average array of color cosmetics. Now Manhattan’s largest drugstore chain is also providing upscale skin care in four high-volume...

NEW YORK — Duane Reade has always been known for serving its savvy customers with a wider than average array of color cosmetics. Now Manhattan’s largest drugstore chain is also providing upscale skin care in four high-volume locations.

Duane Reade is the third drugstore chain to turn to derma-pharmaceutical quality skin care brands, namely Vichy, Avene and 16 professional stockkeeping units of Eucerin featuring Q10. The department, dubbed the Skin Fitness Centre, is located near the entrance and is merchandised in an illuminated fixture. “We just opened them last Friday, and we are very pleased so far,” said Marti Bentley, Duane Reade’s category manager for beauty.

A trained professional — in most cases an esthetician — is on hand for consultations. During a recent visit, it was not uncommon for many shoppers to stop and question the consultant about skin care needs. What’s critical is that Duane Reade has remerchandised the skin care area so that mass market brands are directly across from the professional area, making it easy for customers to shop both areas. While often the expert suggested one of the three premium brands, she also steered customers to mass market offerings such as Olay.

“We expect the centers will boost sales of all skin care and even all cosmetics,” added Christy Katana, cosmetic coordinator for Duane Reade. It is estimated the centers could raise the drugstore’s percentage of beauty sales by a full point.

Vichy dominates the space shared with Avene and Eucerin. All three brands have testers and educational literature. The consultant uses a special computer to analyze skin and then recommend items within the brands for customers’ specific needs. Duane Reade is also offering special gifts-with-purchase in the skin care area as well as coupons. Without the benefit of a consultant, gifts-with-purchase have been challenging for mass merchants.

With or without price incentives, customers are barely batting an eyelash at prices such as a 1.7-oz. Vichy moisturizing cream for $24, said Katana.

To make space for the 16-foot-to-20-foot departments, Duane Reade relocated its prestige fragrances to a new and smaller display as well as moved some pegged cosmetics to a back wall. The chain has not announced plans to extend the centers beyond the four existing sites. Based on early sales, however, it appears New Yorkers are ready for improved skin care at the local drugstore.

This story first appeared in the September 17, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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