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Forever 21 Opens Eighth Riley Rose

Shopping centers are looking to beauty brands to build traffic. Riley Rose has expanded to eight stores in just three months. Its newest store is in Bridgewater, N.J.

Riley Rose, Forever 21’s beauty concept, opened two stores before Christmas on Friday — one in Chicago and one at the Bridgewater Commons mall in New Jersey. That brings to eight the total number of the new format that is an offshoot of the budding beauty business at the apparel retailer.

Located about 50 miles outside of Manhattan, the 5,000-square foot Bridgewater store represents the first in the greater metropolitan area — affording New York-based beauty executives a glimpse at the beauty industry’s latest beauty power player. With shopping center operators looking for new ways to pull shopper in, beauty has become the bait with growth of retailers including E.l.f. and NYX. Those familiar with the store believe it can easily churn out more than $1,000 per square foot.

The other Riley Rose stores in California, Texas, Florida and Maryland. The first, Riley Rose’s flagship, opened in Los Angeles’ Glendale Galleria in September. The locations are in GCP regional shopping centers. At least three more sites are expected to open in 2018, according to market reports.

Inside the pink decked out store is a young woman’s fantasy with more than 150 edgy beauty brands, Dylan’s Candy Bar treats, a food cart stocked with local resources, a selfie station, offbeat lifestyle merchandise and makeup demonstrations. A soft opening on Friday attracted not only young women but also curious Baby Boomers. A few said they were looking not only for themselves but family members, too. For the grand reveal on Saturday, Riley Rose scheduled hair demonstrations, skin-care consultations with an aesthetician and a free gift with the purchase of $40.

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Riley Rose Opens in New Jersey
Hair demonstrations were offered for the opening.

Riley Rose is the brainchild of Linda and Esther Chang, the offspring of Forever 21’s founders. After seeing dynamic gains in beauty products sprinkled into the traditional stores, the Changs decided to fill what they saw as a gap in beauty retailing. The result is a boutique that is more upscale than drugstores yet less intimidating than what many younger customers voice about the department store vibe. Service is friendly and every nook and cranny in the store is an Instagrammable moment.

The beauty brands are eclectic with a heavy concentration on lines once found only on the Internet, as well as a big presence of South Korean brands. Although the beauty staff are still learning the brands themselves, they are friendly and run around the store to find items for customers. Beyond recognized brands such as Stila and Laura Geller, many of the lines are up and coming niche players. Some of the logos include Lime Crime, Winky Lux, Tony Moly, Daily Wonders, Foreo, Beauty Bakerie, Dr. G, Eco Beyond, Makeremake, Dr. Frog, Michael Todd, Jayjun, Aromatica, Lapcos, Touch in Sol, Obsessive Compulsive, BH Cosmetics, Lipland, Dearpacker, Soo Ae, Lemonhead, I Woke Up Like This, Peripera, Too Cool for School, Affect Health and Sachajuan. There are several brands touting natural ingredients. Prices range from $3 for sheet masks to more than $180 for some skin-care brands.

There are endless masks with any ingredient imaginable and for any need. Hair care — including Living Proof and Briogeo — is stocked along with beauty vitamins and supplements. There is a cooler with beverages teed up with Smoothie Beauty natural and organic masks. Scattered throughout are iPads  along with large TV screens promoting brands and offering beauty tips. A sink is conveniently located to wash off the myriad samples. There are outposts stocked with trending products or items to address specific issues such as blackheads.

There’s more than beauty. Shoppers can find whimsical phone chargers (such as one with cactuses on the wire), socks, coffee mugs, water bottles, hosiery, pillows, phone cases, hair accessories, books, stationery and endless rows of candy. One wall is a mini Dylan’s Candy Bar. Company officials at the store describe it as more of a department store for young shoppers rather than a youthful take on Sephora.

Any concern that some of the obscure brands could go overlooked by shoppers was quickly dashed by a 23-year-old customer. “I go to Sephora for a specific brand. I will come here to discover new things and these are the lines all the influencers and bloggers are showing.”

At Bridgewater, Riley Rose competes with a freestanding E.l.f., a Sephora that’s only a few steps away, a regional beauty player called Beauty Plus, L’Occitane, BareMinerals, Lush, Bath and Body Works, Victoria’s Secret and the beauty counters at anchors Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor.