Byline: Chantal Tode

NEW YORK — Ricky’s is a health and beauty chain in search of a new identity.
The chain, based here, will put La Coupe hair salons in two of its stores this fall in an attempt to carve out a niche in a supercompetitive market dominated by major drugstore chains like Rite Aid, CVS, Genovese and Duane Reade.
“We’ve changed our image,” said Al Kenig, president of Ricky’s. “We are not about health and beauty aids anymore — we are about beauty sales.”
Average weekly sales of $30,000 per store will remain even in outlets with a salon, said Kenig, but profit margins will be much higher. “For every $100 worth of toothpaste we sell, we make $20. But for every $100 dollars worth of haircuts we do, we’ll make $50 in profit.” Ricky’s is creating space for the salons by eliminating some low-profit HBA items.
Beauty products have always played a significant role in Ricky’s 11 stores. The chain is known among New York City consumers for its wide array of salon hair care products as well as an eclectic selection of cosmetics brands that doesn’t include big-name mass market brands such as L’Oreal, Revlon and Cover Girl.
Later this month, Ricky’s will add a brand-new element to its beauty mix when it opens its first La Coupe Express hair salon, an eight-chair unit, inside a store on 78th Street and Broadway.
A new Ricky’s store, scheduled to open around Thanksgiving, will house a second La Coupe Express. Located in the Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, Long Island, it will be Ricky’s first venue outside New York City.
If the salons are successful, Kenig said he will open them in more Ricky’s stores.
The 78th Street salon will be in the back of the store and will have a glossy red and steel motif. Prices will range between $25 for a haircut, wash and blow dry, $17 for just a haircut and $12 for just a wash and blow dry.
Ricky’s is following in the footsteps of chains such as Ulta3 and Cosmetic Center, which employ a similar formula of combining retail products and salon services in one outlet.
Charles Booth, who owns a La Coupe salon in Montreal, recently closed his Madison Avenue location. The time was right, said Booth, to take a different approach in the U.S. market.
“In the past few years, Madison Avenue has become very specialized and is now drawing only tourists and the very wealthy,” said Booth. “‘Real’ people shop elsewhere. Doing the La Coupe Express salons offers an opportunity to appeal to a broad range of people.”
The proliferation of other quick-stop hair salons, such as Jacques Dessange and Jean Louis David, was another factor in his decision to join forces with Ricky’s.
La Coupe also has a mass market line of hair care products.
Ricky’s decided to add the salons, said Kenig, in response to a spate of drugstore acquisitions that has created chains that are nearly national in breadth. “The only [independent chains] that are going to survive are the ones that change their business because they can’t compete otherwise,” said Kenig.
Rite Aid, CVS and Genovese have all named New York City as a focus of their future growth plans, which only increases the urgency for Ricky’s to look for new ways to compete, said Kenig.
In addition to putting in La Coupe salons, Ricky’s will be decreasing the space it gives to nonbeauty categories. The chain can’t compete with the bigger chains in commodity categories such as toiletries, said Kenig, so it doesn’t make sense to carry them.
In the newest Ricky’s on 58th Street and Eighth Avenue, which opened last winter, the front of the store is dedicated to fragrances, bath products and hair care, said Kenig. All the way in the back of the store is a small selection of toiletries.
The 27,000-square-foot Ricky’s scheduled to open at Roosevelt Field will carry no health and beauty aids, said Kenig. The emphasis in the store will be on Mattese — Ricky’s own cosmetics brands — as well as makeup accessories, bath products, fragrances, salon hair care and the La Coupe salons.
Ricky’s will continue to make gray-market salon products a part of its retail mix. In fact, Kenig contends the addition of La Coupe adds a certain legitimacy to the presence of salon brands in Ricky’s.
The Roosevelt Field location will be Ricky’s first store inside a mall. Kenig said if all goes well, he would like to open Ricky’s outlets in malls around the country. “I’m not going to open any more stores in New York City; that doesn’t make sense,” said Kenig.
Expanding a budding wholesale business for Mattese is another angle in Ricky’s game plan for future growth. The line’s trendy colors are designed to appeal to a fashion-forward city clientele and have been featured in women’s magazines such as Allure.
Mattese has been available in Japan since last year through the retailer Felissimo’s catalog. Kenig said he is in the midst of negotiating a deal to have the line distributed throughout the Pacific Rim.
Ricky’s is always looking for new ways to set itself apart, said Kenig. For example, it will be adding an optometrist in one store to see if this works as draw for consumers.

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