Byline: Frenchy Falik

HOUSTON, Tex. — When Saks Fifth Avenue made plans to open its second-largest store here, Clarins saw a unique opportunity.
Clarins had long wanted to export to the U.S. a version of its Institut in Paris, a treatment spa inaugurated more than 40 years ago. But to do so required plenty of space — something Saks has in its new unit, which opened last month in the Houston Galleria and measures 210,000 square feet.
Situated on the main cosmetics floor is the first American Institut Clarins, a 2,800-square-foot facility offering facial and body treatments that use Clarins’ botanically based skin care products in conjunction with the Paris Method — a Clarins technique based on more than 80 precise hand movements designed to improve circulation, eliminate toxins and enhance the skin’s natural radiance.
“We’ve been looking for quite a while to find the right location,” said Eric Horowitz, vice president of sales and son of Joseph Horowitz, president of Clarins USA.
“With Saks building this Galleria flagship store from the ground up, it was a great opportunity for us to lease and customize the space to our specifications.”
Saks and Clarins also have clinched future plans. Another Institut will open inside the expanded Saks Fifth Avenue store in Bal Harbour, Fla., in early 1998.
Joseph Horowitz said he sees more opportunities in major markets throughout the country, although not every city and store can support an operation of this size.
“Serious skin care is Clarins’ lifeblood, the roots of our company,” he noted. “The Institut is where and why Clarins products were originally created.”
Horowitz expects the new Institut will generate $1 million in annual sales, but stressed that its reason for being is not as a profit center, but as the embodiment of the Clarins concept.
“There is no better way to experience Clarins products than at the Institut with the Paris Method,” he said.
The company relies heavily on sampling, he added, and visiting the Institut is the most effective way to sample its products.
The Paris Method was developed at the first Institut in Paris by company founder Jacques Courtin-Clarins in 1954. Since then Clarins has established Instituts in Europe and Asia.
Specific Paris Method services offered at the Institut include six types of facials at $75 per hour or six for $375; three body treatments at $85 per hour or six at $425, and various massages for $70 an hour.
Other services are self-tanning, manicures, pedicures and makeup applications. Special facial and body packages range from $165 for a four-hour treatment to $290 for a six-hour treatment.
The Institut’s design, by the architecture firm HLW International, is meant to impart a tranquility that shifts the client’s mood from retail to relax.
Eric Horowitz said the first question he asks a client after her first experience is, “Did you take a shower?”
“If a client feels relaxed enough to get undressed and take a shower,” he explained, “then I know we’ve been successful in creating a luxury setting with the right sense of intimacy to make her forget she’s actually inside a busy department store.”

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