NEW YORK — An increase in both the quantity and quality of men’s grooming brands has a number of retailers in North America pondering how to merchandise them.

Perhaps no chain is more committed to ramping up the men’s area these days than Holt Renfrew, which is carving out more space, adding treatment rooms and using high tech equipment to help sell grooming products.

“We have a lot more of a focus on men’s grooming,” said Shelley Rozenwald, senior vice president of cosmetics, skin care, fragrance and beauty services. “Our men’s treatment business is really booming. When you add fragrances and skin care, we’re seeing excellent growth.”

Within the retailer’s Bloor Street store in Toronto, which received a $33 million renovation a year ago, the retailer carved out a 400-square-foot men’s treatment area from a space formerly used by apparel. It’s located to the rear of the main cosmetics floor.

Furthermore, in the coming months, the retailer plans to enhance the space with two scanning devices — one of which is a computer-based skin imaging apparatus designed to identify skin imperfections optically. A second scanner will enable consumers to access product benefit information by scanning items’ bar codes.

Meanwhile, Holt Renfrew’s Montreal store, which had a “tight” men’s fragrance and skin care section, is adding the finishing touches and expanding the men’s fragrance area to 1,500 square feet.

The space, which will triple its original size, is to include private men’s treatment rooms where men’s facials will be done.

The Montreal store also will have the two scanners, which are from Aramis — one of a number of prestige brands that the retailer carries exclusively via agreements with a number of marketers. It is expected that the new spaces will be finished during the next few months.

Rozenwald referred to the new men’s space as “skin centers” in “key” Holt Renfrew locations.

Some industry observers, however, believe that this approach works only in large urban flagships that have the necessary foot traffic. Holt Renfrew has nine stores north of the border, including three in Toronto, and other units in Montreal, Ottawa and Quebec City. There are also stores farther west in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

This story first appeared in the October 8, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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Rozenwald acknowledged that the chain could expand its men’s treatment space further.

In addition to already doing a big business with Aramis, Rozenwald noted that “we see John Varvatos Skin as a big opportunity for next year.” The store also carries Clinique’s Skin Supplies for Men, a business that’s up this fall, and Shiseido’s Zirh brand. “Men’s skin care is really the highest growth area for us,” Rozenwald remarked, noting that so far it’s up nearly 20 percent this season.

Other men’s treatment brands carried by Holt Renfrew include La Prairie for Men, Kiehl’s Since 1851 — a considerable chunk of its business is in men’s — and Art of Shaving.

Rozenwald remarked, “When men walk in they say, ‘This is the world of men’s skin care.’ It’s easy, edited and all there. It was in women’s, now it’s in men’s. We want to make it really comfortable for them.”

— Matthew W. Evans