BEAUTY’S NEW BREED SINGS HOLIDAY TUNE
Byline: Pete Born
NEW YORK — Just as there’s more to Christmas than a gift set, there are more places than ever to buy beauty for holiday giving. While department stores remain the traditional destination for beauty shoppers, there is a new kind of retailer offering a different experience.
Here is a thumbnail survey of what’s selling among the new breed.
One of the new retailers to attract perhaps the most attention in the last two years has been Sephora, the innovative French perfumery chain that entered the U.S. over a year ago with the proposition that there is another way to sell prestige fragrances and cosmetics.
Since July 1998, the chain has opened 48 stores, culminating with the Rockefeller Center superstore in October. While fragrances are obviously a hot commodity now, the increased holiday selling has cut across the board through color and well being, said Steve Bock, executive vice president of merchandising. And in some of the stores that have comparative numbers with last December, the chain is seeing “some very healthy double-digit increases.”
The prestige nature of Sephora’s merchandise mix is borne out by the best-sellers in women’s fragrances, which echoes similar lists from department stores. The top selling women’s scent is Issey Miyake, followed by Gucci Rush, Clinique’s Happy, Chanel’s Allure, Bulgari, CK One from Calvin Klein, Jean Paul Gaultier, Carolina Herrera’s 212 and Anna Sui.
The power of vertically integrated marketing has been driven home with the force of a thermonuclear explosion by the initial results from Robin Burns’ first fragrance launch in the Victoria Secret Beauty division of Intimate Beauty Corp. Her new scent, Heavenly, a marketing offshoot of the Dream Angels lingerie brand, overwhelmed expectations by doing $40 million at retail in the eight weeks since its fall launch, according to Burns, who is president and chief executive of Intimate Beauty Corp. She pointed out that the initial results translate into $100 million on an annual basis. “I’m blown away; these are the biggest volume numbers of any fragrance I’ve ever launched,” said Burns, who is credited with having built Calvin Klein into an industry power and subsequently launched Estee Lauder’s global blockbuster, Pleasures.
The fragrance, which bears a $45 opening price tag, was advertised in the Victoria’s Secret catalog with a scented strip and merchandised in the 400 Victoria’s Secret Beauty stores and another 400 lingerie units.
After seeing this response, Burns said that when she launches the second fragrance in the series next April, she’ll step on the gas. “I’m going into fashion magazines,” she noted.
Also one of the most unique beauty retail formats to emerge in the last few years is Ulta, a chain of 74 stores based in Romeoville, Ill., that merchandises prestige and mass market products and offers a full menu of salon services along with professional products.
Its list of bestsellers is as eclectic as its unusual product mix. Ulta is where the prestige, mass and salon services market mingle. For instance, the chain is doing well with Calvin Klein fragrances, both women’s and men’s. On the women’s side alone, hot movers include Givenchy’s Amarige, Organza, Gucci Rush, Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea and the Chanel and Oscar de la Renta scents. On the men’s side, in addition to the Klein scents, there is Davidoff’s Cool Water.
Other best-sellers include a hair line called Vortex, Oil of Olay’s new color cosmetics line, the store’s Ulta private label cosmetics and Murad skin care. The chain also retails professional salon products and some of the standouts are Matrix, Rusk, American Crew, TIGI and OPI. Terry Hanson, Ulta chairman, said the new Neurogena color line is also doing well. But the Oil of Olay entry is doing “very well.”
In total, Ulta’s business has undergone a noticeable pickup this week as the holiday buying mood finally began taking hold in Chicago, which has been enjoying unseasonably warm weather.
Another groundbreaker is Bliss, the downtown New York spa that made pampering hip. Larry Paul, director of retail at Bliss World, said the retail portion of the business has grown considerably and this time of year, the spa sells a gamut of items ranging from fun bath and body care products to $100 gift certificates for serious spa treatments.
Often, Paul said, customers put together themed gifts like a gift certificate for a manicure and a hand cream.
Or an ensemble, like signature sandals with a Bliss robe. The retail section of the spa has been remodeled and expanded. A makeup room has been built containing the Sylvie Chantecaille, Shu Uemura and T. Leclerc brands.
Paul has seen the business grow. “This year they are buying a ton of fragrance and fragrance candles,” he said. “There is the regular spa customer. But we also get a lot of new clients, who say it’s an easier place to buy a gift.”
Easily the most offbeat fragrance launch this season is a scent called Snow, developed by the irreverent downtown perfumers at Demeter. “It smells like biting into a snowball, a ozone feeling,” said Christopher Gable, co-owner.
Demeter, which has built a following with its wacky image, opened its first store this fall on Second Avenue near Fifth Street in the East Village.
Some of its bestsellers include a Sugary Cookie candle and scents titled Champagne Brut and Condensed Milk. However, Demeter’s number one seller remains Dirt, which suggests the scent of freshly turned soil.
“Our customer has a sense of humor,” Gable noted, “and the self confidence of not having to be validated by Tommy Donna Ralph Calvin.”
There seems to be plenty of money in downtown Manhattan. At least that’s the one conclusion that can be drawn from the first three months of selling at the 3,000-square-foot Creed boutique on Bond Street, which opened Sept. 8. “Custom blending is what everybody wants,” said Laurice Rahme, president of Creed U.S. “It’s an egomaniacal crowd. All they want is something just for themselves.”