NEW YORK — Sure, Whole Foods Market stocks everything organic (think kale and boy choy), but this retail cornucopia of all things natural wants to remind its shoppers it’s in the beauty business, too.
The supermarket spread that message to Whole Food loyalists during an in-store event here at its Columbus Circle store located in the Time Warner Center Wednesday. The festivities — ranging from hand massages to eyebrow waxes — were organized to trumpet Whole Foods’ beauty and wellness department, Whole Body.
The company, which launches its marketing initiatives regionally, is currently mulling over additional Whole Body events but has yet to mark more on its calendar, said Marilyn Dale, regional Whole Body buyer, who oversees 30 stores throughout metro New York and New England.
She added the in-store marketing initiative was about courting Whole Foods’ current customers. “In Whole Foods, we have all the customers we need. We’re trying to get more of our shoppers, who understand the value of healthy and beautiful food, to understand the value of our health and beauty department.”
Wednesday’s event hosted 18 vendors, each of which enlisted representatives to demonstrate their goods. Amy Corcoran from Larénim (“mineral” spelled backward) was on hand, introducing passersby to the one-year-old mineral makeup line. Larénim, founded by her sister-in-law Kirsten Corcoran, includes eye shadows, foundation and blush. Corcoran explained that the loose powders can also be transformed into a multitude of cosmetics products when mixed with the right base. For instance, she dabbed some peach-colored powder in clear lip gloss to create lipstick. Nearby, Stacey Stilts from Jason Natural Products applied the brand’s Red Elements facial care regimen to hands and faces. Other event participants included Suki, a skin care line based in western Massachusetts, the German beauty brand Laveré and Collective Wellbeing, a range of sulfate-free bath and body products.
Shoppers could stop into a back room to have eyebrows waxed at Parissa’s, a line of natural hair removal systems.
Management’s interest in Whole Body has been percolating since the company opened a Whole Foods store in Chelsea in late 2000. Due to an extra storefront available next door, the Chelsea location houses a separate Whole Body store, which is attached to Whole Foods. “It started out as a quirk of architecture,” recounted Dale. “The store in Chelsea peaked everybody’s interest.”
Whole Foods will open a similar format at Charles River Place in Boston in two weeks. Taking the concept even further, the company has opened a Whole Body store in Ridgewood, N.J., which Dale reported is “doing gangbusters.” The 1,600-square-foot store is located in the same strip mall as a Whole Foods, but is not attached.
Within each Whole Foods store, the Whole Beauty department occupies varying footprints, based on the size and layout of the outlet, explained Dale.
Throughout its 25-year history, the Whole Foods assortment has always included beauty products. The business has evolved into a store-within-a-store concept, replete with a beauty bar manned by a trained skin care specialist or makeup artist. Whole Body departments, founded in all 172 Whole Foods stores, also frequently host consultants dispatched from vendors. For instance, Kimberly Sayer, a U.K.-born aestheticican who is now based here, makes regular appearances in New York and New Jersey stores, giving shoppers mini-facials and trumpeting her skin care line Kimberly Sayer of London.
The retailer is also seeking out more niche brands to pepper its beauty mix. “As we have grown, ironically, we have become more committed to buying locally,” noted Dale. She named John Masters Organics — the eponymous hair care and skin care collection of Manhattan hairstylist John Masters — as an example of a brand that Whole Foods introduced in the New York market and later expanded nationally.
“The company is clearly putting its resources and focus behind Whole Body,” said Dale. “Whole Foods wouldn’t devote space to the concept if the company was not convinced [of its success].”
Last week the company announced it expected to open a London flagship in early 2007, which Dale and her regional Whole Body team will oversee. “One of the biggest initiatives in London is to bring a lot more body care products into the store.”