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Editor’s Letter: Call it a Retail Comeback

"A handful of iconoclasts are devoting themselves to bringing back fabulous shopping experiences," writes Jenny B. Fine.

Call me shallow, but I love to shop.

I love the sense of discovery, of energy and excitement, the sense of place that you get when you’re in a really amazing store with incredible, individualized merch. Over the past decade, as style has democratized and stores have homogenized, such experiences have become few and far between.

But now, a handful of iconoclasts are devoting themselves to bringing back fabulous shopping experiences, and Ed Burstell, the managing director of Liberty of London, is leader of the pack.

A vociferous opponent of the concession system, in which stores rent out space to brands, thereby ceding their own identity, Burstell has transformed Liberty into what he calls the ultimate “accessible emporium,” packed with exclusive products, cool brands and covetable one-offs. Many of those finds are hand-picked by Burstell himself, a retail veteran who got his start behind an Estée Lauder counter and still passionately believes that a successful store strategy starts with the customer. As you’ll discover in “Ain’t We Got Fun” on page 22, that vision has paid off in spades for Liberty, where overall sales have doubled since 2009 and beauty sales have tripled.

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Burstell is not alone, though, as you’ll see in this issue of WWD Beauty Inc, which is devoted to what’s new, hot and happening at retail. Take MAC, which is creating a series of customized formats, like the recently opened youth-oriented store in Orlando, Fla. Or Abercrombie and Fitch, which revolutionized the way it approaches mobile commerce earlier this year, as we report in “Can You Hear Me Now?” on page 28.

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Then there’s Japan, where economic and demographic factors have taken their toll on beauty sales. But recently, the self-select channel has started to gain steam in a bid to woo younger consumers, reports Kelly Wetherille from Tokyo, delivering a comprehensive view of the new competitive landscape in “Get Ready for Playtime” on page 30. From Cosme Kitchen’s all-natural concept to Million Doors’ Paris-inspired setup, I, for one, can’t wait to go.