A Happy Medium


The beauty floor at Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was buzzing yesterday. Packed with both tourists and Manhattanites, the store was exciting, but overwhelming at the same time. Aggressive sales associates pounced on shoppers in a fashion reminiscent of the Eighties, especially on this reporter’s unmade face.

I wanted a BB cream for my daughter who has small breakouts. While there were most likely as least six brands offering one at Saks, the cacophony was overwhelming. When it came time to plunk down my money, I went next door to the Sephora.

In Sephora, the adviser sent me to the skin care area, which at this particular time was understaffed. The associate, a Dr. Murad-trained expert, had to refer back to the original consultant and eventually the two of them got me direct to Boscia. There I found a perfect choice.

At one store, there was almost too much help. The other choice got me what I needed after a little prodding. I wished I had done more research on the Web so I knew what I wanted instead of relying solely on store support.

The shopping experience shows why so many consumers are turning to alterative resources to get educated before they go to the store. By watching videos, visiting the Internet or a vendors’ Web site, shoppers can know exactly how to use products and what they do. Upon entering the store, they can choose to ask questions or make a dash for what they want. A longtime maven of beauty retailing, the late Jeanette Solomon, summed it up best when she said that women don’t want to be helped, until they want to be helped. Indeed that balance is tough to master.

This trend is favoring an environment where shoppers want to find the products easily, have testers and a quick purchase method. While there’s always the theater of the busy floor ala Saks, which is entertaining and beckons consumers into the store, there is also a consumer who wants an efficient in and out experience which is still pleasant.

The environment served up by Duane Reade, which is trying to build the theater of a department store without the frenzy, could be just what consumers desire. However, the chance to introduce upscale brands and get them into the hands of shoppers— that a store like Saks can do — can’t be duplicated.

That’s good news for mass and class. But when it comes to services, perhaps something in between garners the sale.

People, Places and Things

A few words with Doug Hosking, chief executive officer of Freeman about the acquisition of two brands last week — c. Booth and Eclos from Delicious Brands.

WWDBeautyNews: Why did you buy these two brands?
Hosking: We are known for product specific items, this takes us into regimens. We also gain access the plant stem cell technology used in Eclos and we think founder Colleen Rosthschild is a great product creator.

WWDBeautyNews: Have you acquired other brands?
Hosking: Yes, we have acquired other companies with great success such as dry shampoo Psssst. We think this will be a great team.

What’s In Store

Unilever Introduces Simple: Unilever has introduced a U.K. facial skin care brand to the U.S. market with the launch of Simple Sensitive Skin Experts. The brand’s debut in the U.S.  and Canada is marked by the unveiling of 13 facial skin care items, making it the only mass facial skin care line specifically for those with sensitive skin, Unilever stated.

Prom Season: Prom shoppers are out in force and it could be a time to tout the products in demand this year, which experts say are decorated nails and curled hairstyles. Retailers who build endcaps with nail products and styling aids will be in tune with what girls are in the market to buy. Red Carpet Manicure is helping get its accounts ready with new shades in time for Prom. Prom is developing into a major selling opportunity to help offset sagging sales at other times.


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