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Specialty store executives discuss their expectations for holiday, what will drive beauty sales and how fragrance is poised for the rest of the year.

This story first appeared in the September 25, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.


Lyn Kirby, president and chief executive officer of Ulta: “We will be helped by new introductions, including the D&G collection, [Marc Jacobs’] Lola, DKNY [Be Delicious] and Juicy Couture [Viva La Juicy]. The fragrance category still remains the most discretionary category, and therefore, our sales are still lower than the prior year, although we are significantly outpacing the industry and taking market share in that category. We do have some exciting new fragrances for fourth quarter. We expect to be anniversarying the newness from last year, as well as the continued flow-through of some really exciting fragrances from third quarter this year.

“On the gift-with-purchase strategy, we continue to see traction with that for our customers as we develop fresh new [ideas] to sustain motivation to our customer base, and have appropriately planned that in our fourth quarter.”

Michael McGeever, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of fragrances and Sephora branded products at Sephora: “In the area of exclusive launches, Kat Von D recently introduced Sinner and Saint created with the idea that every woman has two sides. We’re also very excited about the upcoming launch of Leslie Blodgett Perfume Diaries in October, inspired by Leslie’s memories of growing up, trips and life experiences. And Stella McCartney launches Stella Nude this month. [Marc Jacobs’] Daisy has been a favorite of our client for the past two years and we think the Lola collection is a great interpretation of Daisy’s sexy older sister. Very Hollywood has a great runway, glamour feel that is already resonating with our client, and D&G by Dolce & Gabbana is right up our alley — tailored to a new generation that demands the freedom to choose. YSL Parisienne brings a new, casual sensuality to the brand.

“This year, more than ever, the focus is on newness, exclusivity and value. We are able to offer clients not only unique product offerings, but also competitive price points on Sephora exclusives like Tarte Treasure Chest for $52, Sephora Collection’s Ultimate Blockbuster for $48 and Lorac Double Booked $55 full-face kit, packaged in a reusable jewelry box. Clients love our scent sampler set that includes a variety of best-selling fragrances for the gift recipient to try. There’s also Sephora Favorites, deluxe sampler sets featuring Sephora’s best items.”

Marla Malcolm Beck, founder of Bluemercury: “For gifting this holiday, the price points have to come down. We’ve had to go seek out merchandise to come in [at a price point] where we want it to come in. People are looking for accessibility. We really only play in the niche fragrances. You’ve got the Bluemercury client and then you have the Bluemercury fragrance client, who is leading edge. It’s a very small population.

“We did well with fragrance over the summer. I think people were looking for a pick-me-up.”

JoAnn Issenman, category manager for skin care and cosmetics at Pharmaca: “We are concentrating on our own products this year. We have body care and hair products in four fragrances and bath salts. We have put together a private label Pharmaca-brand mix-and-match program where the shopper can almost put together her own gift bag with a combination of products. They get a beautiful bag made in the Philippines by a woman’s microeconomy group that we sourced. The price points are below $24. We are also doing a pre-wrapped soap program of shea butter soaps. We have a variety of sets from Jane Iredale, one of which is a lip gloss set of four lip glosses made to look like a box of chocolates.

“Our cosmetics sales have been very robust this year, but during the holiday season, it goes up 12 percent. We have been comping positively almost throughout this whole recession because we sell things that people really need and because we are so differentiated in terms of the support we give the customer when she comes in the store.”

Tracy Brennan, founder and president of Kalologie: “We will be offering customized gift baskets of products and services as well as ‘grab-and-go’ items that are pre-wrapped for our clients who want to pick up items after their facials.

“A major focus for us will be the Kalologie Illuminate eye cream with botanical liquid crystals, which we will bundle with Latisse for a truly exceptional eye combination. On that note, we are also working with Allergan to provide ‘Lunch and Lash’ days during the holidays, where we provide boxed lunches for clients shopping on their lunch break.

“Bath and body tends to be strong for us for gifting reasons. We do great business with fragrance around the holidays, especially with L’Artisan [Parfumeur] and essential oils. With fragrance, roll-on with price points in the $40s has a great value.

“Overall, we are feeling cautiously optimistic about things. We are definitely seeing more consumer confidence out there…[but still customers] are careful about their purchases. We will probably be looking at [being] flat to slightly up from last year. From a retail perspective, I am not sure where the consumer mind-set is going to be in terms of gift buying this year. I am not sure where they are going to end up on that.”

Robin Coe-Hutshing, founder and creative director of Studio BeautyMix at Fred Segal: “For holiday, we are focusing on the same sort of special and unique item-based gifts that we have always tried to provide. I think price point is an issue in as much as each item, even if it is expensive, must deliver maximum bang for the buck in terms of visual and end-use pleasure. Basic luxury goods will fall into gift-giving categories this year. High-end skin care like La Mer or hair products will definitely be merchandised for gift giving. Fragrance is still definitely a strong holiday purchase. We will be strongly promoting our new Memoire Liquide Reserve range of five ready-to-wear fragrances.

“We are creating an area called Studio Secrets with our very favorite items. It is a fun, shopable area with editorial copy that I have written, and products I have hand-selected and curated.”

Oliver Garfield, president of Cos Bar: “We feel fragrance is kind of an affordable luxury that people who are looking to buy a luxury product can buy without breaking the bank. We are bringing in fragrances that customers are requesting such as those by Dolce & Gabbana, the new Narciso Rodriguez Essence and the new Bond launch. Our general philosophy with fragrance merchandising is staying with the classics, since that is what sells and where we do most of our fragrance business. We are not a retailer who brings in the celebrity fragrances.

“October will be the next big month for us. I will be watching the comps every day. Fragrance has performed worse for us year-to-date than our general business, but we noticed it started to pick up in the past several months. We are thinking it will outperform our overall business for holiday and could end up with 5 percent or 6 percent increases.”

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