Customers who enter the new Tom Ford Beauty boutique will be greeted by LED screens projecting bustier-clad pin-ups photographed from the waist down, sitting with strategically placed bottles of eau de parfum “F–king Fabulous” between their legs.
At least the word “F–king” is blacked out.
Not one for subtlety, Tom Ford’s first beauty store, which opens Nov. 20 in London’s Covent Garden, is the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.-owned brand’s first freestanding door. It’s also the only off-line presence dedicated solely to Ford’s namesake beauty range.
“My goal is for Tom Ford to be a $2 billion brand and this is the next step to get there,” Ford told WWD.
And the brand might very well be on its way.
An industry source said that Tom Ford Beauty is now on track to hit $1 billion in sales before 2019, more than a year ahead of schedule. (WWD reported in June 2016 that the brand was on track to hit $500 million by the fiscal year that ended June 30, a 29 percent lift from 2015 to 2016, with plans to reach $1 billion in sales by 2020).
Guillaume Jesel, global brand president, Tom Ford Beauty, declined to comment on projections but said the brand grew more than 50 percent last year, fueled by Private Blend fragrances and the lip category. Specifically, the fourth installment of clutch-sized lipstick, Boys & Girls, is driving “substantial growth” in lips, and the category overall has grown by 10 times in just three years. Private blend is growing at a rate of 30 percent, a result of innovation in oud fragrances and the launch of F–king Fabulous in September.
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“Any time I design something, whether it’s a shoe or a lipstick or a bag or a fragrance, I really use it, or try it. And I look at it. I think, ‘Do I need this, do I want this, do women need this? Do I believe in this?'” Ford replied when asked why he thinks his brand resonates with consumers.
Apparently his customers really want (and need) F–king Fabulous. The eau de parfum, priced at $310 for 50 ml., is expected to exceed sales projections this year by 20 times. It will soon surpass Soleil Blanc as the biggest Private Blend launch to date.
“The…client wants an emotional experience. They want to connect with our products in a sensorial way. They want to combine, mix and layer our fragrances and cosmetics to make them their own. Now they will finally have the perfect place to do that,” Ford explained, describing the aesthetic as an extension of his Manhattan flagship that bowed on June 29, which he called “modern and minimalist” and heavy on the black, white, gray and chrome. “The inspiration for this store is slick and modern, but with a bright and light mood.”
The store concept — a confluence of technology and the over-the-top glam Ford has becoming synonymous with — is the designer’s vision entirely. Decor includes the aforementioned LED screens installed in the front windows to showcase recent launches and campaigns as well as product merchandised on white marble slabs and illuminated in “halos of light.”
“There was a time when you would not think of buying a lipstick online, you needed to smell it, feel it, touch it,” Ford said of the beauty industry when he founded the brand 11 years ago. For him, while the biggest change industrywide since founding Tom Ford Beauty is the mass adoption of e-commerce, delivering a high-touch, in-store retail experience is more important than ever.
“Now we find that our customers are shopping in stores and then going online to buy more or try new product categories, or the other way around.…You need to create a very special experience for the customer — it’s about connecting with the customers on an emotional level,” he said.
Ford detailed how he plans to do this. Fragrance, color and grooming will have dedicated rooms within the two level, 1,400-square-foot boutique, showcasing the full range of product in each category as well as offering services that Ford called “impeccable and high-tech.” For instance, a digital scenting table will educate clients and let them sample the Private Blend Collection and augmented reality technology will allow for virtual lip color try-on.
“Of course, men can still come in and get a traditional shave and women can come in and get their makeup done,” he added.
Ford handpicked the tools and equipment in the Grooming Room, which will have a barber on staff performing services from express facials to beard trimming and a hot towel, close-cut wet shave. The basement floor has a private makeup room with digital mirrors to record makeup tutorials so customers can re-create the look at a later date, and a VIP/event space for more intimate appointments.
The technology-meets-traditional-beauty-store concept is only the beginning of a retail rollout, according to Jesel. A second store will open in Malaysia in the spring, the first time the brand will be sold in that market.
“We added more in sales in the past four years than in the first six years of business. The freestanding store concept is the next evolution in the growth of this company,” Jesel said, noting that London was selected as the location for the first store due to “very good coverage” from Ford’s fashion stores in the U.S. (which also sell beauty).
He maintained that the business is “well-diversified” across regions. Overall, the U.S. and the U.K. comprise the largest markets, with the Apac region and travel retail leading growth companywide. China is the fastest-growing market, inclusive of the Chinese traveling consumer.
“We are laser-focused on scaling the brand while maintaining its luxury positioning and anchoring it in our most brand-building distribution. The introduction of the freestanding store will help us in the most natural way to maintain luxury as we scale…We have broadened our channel strategy that started with fragrance in department stores, and [the store] is the next chapter in our channel diversification,” Jesel continued, noting that the company is accelerating in specialty multiretail and mobile and e-commerce, the fastest -rowing channels. The former has been successful in recruiting Millennial and aspirational luxury consumers while the digital channel is growing at almost double the brand’s rate of overall growth.
He also pointed out that the Tom Ford Beauty store will have a dual-gender appeal. Ford’s vision from the onset was to not categorize scents as masculine or feminine, resulting in many of the eau de parfums being unisex. The approach has worked: 40 percent of customers are male.
Jesel declined to give retail sales projections but an industry source said the boutique could easily do over $2 million during its first full year in business. This is not a small number, but considering Tom Ford Beauty could surpass $750 million in sales this fiscal year (this source puts the number close to $1 billion), it appears the retail push is more a marketing vehicle and less about meaningful sales.
“It has a dual role. It is an opportunity for us to recruit new consumers and offer unique [and personalized] services and experiences,” Jesel said. “This is our moment to experiment with a new format that is entirely focused on the intersection of beauty and technology.”