Byline: Faye Brookman

NEW YORK — Competition for Manhattan’s beauty business just got tougher.
A new player entered the crowded field this month, when Bradlees opened its first store here on East 14th Street opposite Union Square Park in 143,000 square feet of retail space that previously housed Mays. The discounter thus becomes the latest to join the swollen ranks of Manhattan’s beauty purveyors, a group that includes department stores, drugstores and specialty outlets.
Bradlees — Manhattan’s first chain discount store — is expected to ring up sales of at least $45 million and become the top producer for the Braintree, Mass.-based organization.
Company officials believe this unit will produce triple the sales of its typical suburban branches. The store is off to a fast start with as many as 30,000 customers flocking to its doors each day, especially when Bradlees has promoted the chance to meet celebrities like Elle Macpherson and Heather Whitestone, the current Miss America.
Although store officials will not break out sales by category, cosmetics was described as “a major opportunity” by Cindy Quinn, divisional merchandise manager for accessories, jewelry, cosmetics and hosiery.
Cosmetics in most discount stores represents less than 2 percent of total volume. In New York, Bradlees will lock horns not only with department stores, but drugstore powerhouses such as Duane Reade, a retailer known for its super-sharp prices.
Other drugstore competition includes McKay Drug, Genovese Drug Stores, Love’s Stores and Ricky’s.
“We have an upper hand because we do offer one-stop shopping,” said Quinn. “Someone might come in for gold [jewelry] and buy a fragrance. But we’re not so naòve as not to realize that we have to be competitive and to adjust our prices.”
Quinn said the chain will meet the competition’s advertised prices on key beauty products, and the competition is keen. Many cosmetics items cost less at the drugstore. A Cover Girl eye pencil, $3.09 at Bradlees, is $2.79 at Duane Reade in the Empire State Building. Coty’s Longing women’s fragrance is $13.99 for a 0.5-ounce eau de toilette spray at Bradlees and only $11.99 at Duane Reade.
Traffic in the store during two recent visits was extremely heavy. During a one-hour period, every fourth customer stopped and browsed in the cosmetics department. Although some said prices were higher than Duane Reade’s, they praised the breadth of selection and the cleanliness of the store.
Borrowing a tactic from department stores, Bradlees puts its cosmetics departments at the store entrances. Although Bradlees has brought a spacious suburban-style cosmetics department to New York, the store represents an upscale direction for the chain.
“We knew in Manhattan we’d have to have a different look. We took our existing department upscale. We wanted the look of a department store,” said Quinn.
The department is set off with teal accents on the fixtures.
“The combination of the teal and white gives it a fresh, Nineties look that is more shoppable,” said Quinn.
Two large island-shaped displays are the focal point of the department. The fixtures are used for seasonal and new-product promotions.
They are now stocked with Christmas gift sets, including Coty’s Longing, Vanilla Fields, Stetson and Exclamation fragrances. Other mass fragrance brands include Procter & Gamble’s Navy and Incognito, Parfums de Coeur brands, Prince Matchabelli brands, Renaissance Cosmetic’s Chantilly and Lady in Red.
Prestige fragrances are in a glass showcase at the front of the department. Clerks who handle jewelry also service the prestige fragrance area. The brands carried include Bijan, Poison, Giorgio, Tresor, Chloé, Sung, White Diamonds and DNA.
“In New York we added a larger case of designer fragrances,” said Quinn.
The peg wall features Maybelline and Revitalizing, Cover Girl, Max Factor, L’Oréal, Almay and Revlon. Procter & Gamble’s new fixture for Cover Girl that incorporates more point-of-purchase educational materials is featured.
Quinn hopes to encourage vendors to work with the chain to offer makeovers and manicures. A new addition for Bradlees is a nine-foot bath and body department, including Sarah Michaels, Naturistics and San Francisco Soap Co., as well as some specialty bath gift baskets.
“We decided to pick select resources and make a statement without going too far,” Quinn said of the bath assortment.
Although many discount chains have been integrating health and beauty aids into beauty, Bradlees keeps HBA with jewelry and accessories. The cosmetics area and the health and beauty aids departments are run by two different divisions within the chain.
Cosmetics, in fact, was moved from hard lines to soft lines at Bradlees last year, a move Quinn thinks makes sense because of the importance of style and color changes on the beauty market. A large health and beauty aids department is in the basement of the store.
Bradlees is advertising beauty via its flyers, including item-specific ads as well as “percent-off-entire-line” promotions. The Manhattan store is spread over six floors and includes apparel, sporting goods, consumables and health and beauty aids.
There is tight security, with guards and video cameras throughout the store. The clientele runs the gamut from upscale shoppers to lower and middle-class consumers looking for value. Bradlees hopes to lure pedestrian traffic as well as tapping commuters on their way home to the boroughs via the major subway hub near the store’s entrance. The Manhattan unit was one of six new stores opened on the same day, including one in New Hyde Park on Long Island.
Bradlees is looking for growth in urban locations that have been shunned in the past by discounters because of the higher rents.
Bradlees will open stores on Staten Island next year and is eyeing Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Westchester County. It has opened 11 new stores this year.

Christmas has begun in the mass market.
Many drugstore chains unleashed their promotional assaults this week, and once again, prestige fragrances are being used as a hook for holiday selling.
CVS in Woonsocket, R.I., for example, is featuring a coupon good for $3 off any prestige fragrance with a purchase of $10 or more. Featured brands include Ralph Lauren’s Polo, Lancôme’s Trésor, Christian Dior’s Poison and Yves Saint Laurent’s Opium.
Mass fragrances are also on sale for $3 off the list price with a coupon. Those scents include Mem’s Timberline, Revlon’s Charlie and Coty’s Longing.
Woolworth Corp.’s RX Place is offering a 1-oz. Chloé Narcisse, 1-oz. Joop, 1.7-oz. Hugo Boss and an Obsession for Men gift set at $24.88 in its ads in Sunday newspapers of Nov. 13. In the past, mass stores hesitated to even mention names of prestige brands in their ads. Now they are promoting the brands and their prices.
The efforts have paid off. Buyers say prestige fragrances were among the top sellers during last year’s holiday season.

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