Byline: Natasha Singer

MOSCOW — Beauty industry executives agree that one of the key markets in the 21st century will be Russia. Although Estee Lauder, which opened its first boutique there in 1989, is no stranger to the market, the company is picking up the pace there.
Its latest installment is the 200-square-meter Estee Lauder Beauty Center, which opened just before Christmas and is Russia’s first luxury spa.
Located 40 kilometers outside the Russian capital in Nahabino, the spa is housed in the exclusive Moscow Country Club, which is also home to the newly opened Meridien Park Hotel, managed by Forte International Hotels, and a PGA-Europe-approved golf course.
Clients visiting the Lauder center will have access to the massive marble and malachite fitness center at the hotel, with its swimming pool, exercise equipment, sauna and Turkish baths.
Moscow Country Club officials estimated Lauder’s startup costs for the spa — with its gold-and-white decor, chandeliers, white leather banquets and white, Sardinian granite floors — at around $1 million.
The spa is expected to achieve a first-year volume of about $500,000, according to industry sources, who said the Lauder boutique in Moscow’s GUM department store has an annual retail volume of over $3.5 million.
Although Moscow has several beauty salons — including Jacques Dessange, Yves Rocher and a two-room Guerlain minisalon in the National Hotel — the Lauder center represents the country’s first state-of-the-art skin- and body-care facility.
During the opening days of the spa, customers seemed to be responding to the opulence and the products.
One of the first clients was so happy with her inaugural manicure that she plunked down more than $1,100 on makeup and skin care products on her way out.
Another spent $1,500 in one go, stocking up on $75 holiday fragrance compacts for his secretaries.
“This is Moscow’s first total luxury environment,” said Elizabeth Susskind, vice president of Estee Lauder International. “We want the Beauty Center to be a relaxing oasis in the fresh air of the countryside, and provide an escape from the pollution and the stress of Moscow.”
The Moscow Beauty Center is Lauder’s 37th spa worldwide and its largest beauty facility in Europe, where it also has centers in Baden-Baden, Germany, and Amsterdam. Treatments at the Moscow facility include skin cleansing, firming or rehydrating facials, manicures and pedicures, makeovers and a variety of massages.
The Beauty Center has two masseurs and four full-time estheticians, who received skin care training from Lauder staff and makeup expertise from Lev Novikov, who has been called “Russia’s answer to Kevin Aucoin.”
One of the surprise hits of the spa is the one-room Aramis skin care center; until now, advanced skin care has not been available for Russian men, who seem to be enjoying the new opportunity to pamper themselves, Susskind noted.
A full “Day of Beauty” package, which includes a “lifting” facial, a massage, a one-hour makeup lesson, hairdressing and a low-fat gourmet lunch costs $350. A half-day of beauty runs $225.
Although the luxury spa experience may be something new for many Russian clients, it seems that they are quick to embrace the pampering atmosphere.
“I enjoyed the day of beauty so much I’m planning to schedule it once a week from now on,” said Elvira Averianova, adding, “and I’m planning to bring my friends.”
To encourage such repeat visits, Lauder hopes to create a club atmosphere at the spa.
“We hope to develop about 50 to 100 regular customers, and I expect they will come once or twice a month for a full day of beauty,” Susskind said.
“We’ve been open for business since Dec. 23 and already clients are coming back for second visits,” she noted in early January.
On Dec. 18, the spa held a reception attended by top Russian government representatives, Moscow city officials, business executives and local celebrities.
As the first American cosmetics company to market products in Russia, Estee Lauder is one of the most well-known foreign brand names in Moscow.
Lauder cosmetics sell in a number of cities in Russia, including St. Petersburg, Tomsk, Tula and Krasnoyarsk, as well as in Kiev, the capital of neighboring Ukraine.
Lauder isn’t the only company making a major push in Moscow, however.
Revlon opened a store in the GUM mall in November 1996. In the same month, Guerlain opened a boutique on the trendy Kuznetsky Most street, next to the Gianni Versace boutique.
Estee Lauder will open a second Moscow store this month on Tverskaya, Moscow’s main street, which is similar to New York’s Broadway.
Also in January, a second Clinique boutique opened in the Artists’ Gallery, a new downtown mall that is already home to Naf-Naf and Laura Biagiotti boutiques.
Clinique will open its first store in St. Petersburg later this year; and St. Petersburg, which already has Lancome and Yves Rocher stores, may also see a second Estee Lauder boutique in 1997.