Byline: Jackie Cooperman

MILAN — As multinational perfumery chains begin to change the retailing landscape in Italy, beauty companies are taking matters into their own hands by opening boutiques to carry their products in strategic city centers and looking to develop franchises overseas.
“The traditional perfumery is really in a time of crisis,” said Gianluca Giraudi, president of Perlier-Kelemata, which opened its first Armonie Naturali store in Bologna in 1996. It has since expanded to 20 points of sale in Italy, three stores in France, one in SoHo in New York and 37 corners in the Jusco department stores in Japan.
“We really see our boutiques as a lab where we act as intermediaries between the production and the consumer,” he said.
Giraudi said the strategy behind the stores is to solicit customer opinions and then turn out new products sold exclusively at the Armonie Naturali stores, as opposed to the 1,200 traditional points of sale. The products that are merchandised exclusively to Armonie Naturali are geared in smaller quantities, allowing faster production time, said Silvana Cartolano, managing director of the Armonie Naturali stores.
“We can turn around a product in a month and a half,” she said.
Giraudi was quick to point out that the growth of the boutiques has not jeopardized his relationship with the perfumery and department stores carrying his company’s products, which include the Kelemata, Perlier, Victor, Imaginez and Annayake brands. The company also owns the Orlane makeup line, which is not sold in the Armonie Naturali stores.
“The perfumeries that carry us see our boutiques as our way of advertising our products, not as competition,” said Giraudi.
The Armonie Naturali stores average 860 square feet. They are designed by an in-house team and feature light wood, open glass shelving and multiple tester banks of makeup, fragrance, hair care and treatment products. Giraudi said he wanted to make future stores as large as 2,150 square feet, with room for treatment cabins and training classes. Treatment products contain natural ingredients, like chamomile, mint, linden, calendula and melissa. The natural herbs are grown in La Carignana, the company’s estate just outside of Turin.
Products are developed in an internal research center on the premises. “We need space to differentiate our products,” he said. “We want to have an area dedicated to hand treatments, one for eyes, lips, body.”
To that end, Kelemata has developed a five-unit line called Lip Lab, which features a moisturizer, exfoliant, corrector and lipstick remover, exclusively for the Armonie Naturali stores. Other exclusives include an Acqua Therapy face-care line. Still, Giraudi said, the company is mindful of using its strong distribution network among traditional perfumeries.
“The products that succeed in the Armonie Naturali stores will go into the perfumeries that carry our other products,” he said.
By the end of 2000, Giraudi said, he expects to expand to 100 freestanding Armonie Naturali stores in Italy and three or four in New York.
“We’d really like to develop a franchising network with the Armonie Naturali stores,” said Giraudi.
Armonie Naturali is certainly the most ambitious example to date of its kind in Italy, but it is by no means alone.
The fragrance and treatment brand Rance, which sells in 1,500 perfumeries and department stores in Italy and in 30 countries around the world, opened its first boutique in Milan in 1996 and two years later opened a second shop in Rome. By the end of 2000, it will have opened a boutique of its own in Paris, said Felice D’Elia, Rance managing director.
“We will always sell our products in the classic perfumery, which is where we do our true business, but the stores have a function of helping us promote a certain image,” D’Elia said.
Both the Milan store, on the distinctly upper-class Corso Magenta, and the Rome store, in the swanky Piazza Navona, occupy high-price real estate. D’Elia said he was still searching for the perfect Paris address.
“We’re not looking to make a huge network of stores, but the idea is to have them in cities in which we make our presence known,” he said. “The stores help us get an immediate sense of our clientele, and of course, we have the room to stock our full range of products, which the perfumeries can’t do. In Italy, we’re in 1,500 perfumeries, but they stock about 30 brands in addition to Rance, so they can’t carry all of our products.”
Like Kelemata-Perlier, the Rance stores will look to franchising, D’Elia said, especially in Asia. “We want to develop a franchising concept from the stores.”
Still, D’Elia noted that with only two stores in existence and one more planned, the perfumery network remains the bread and butter for his company’s sales.
“You can’t replace those 1,500 perfumeries with Rance stores in every city,” he said. “It’s better to be in 10 good perfumeries throughout Turin than in one Rance store for the entire city.”
Unlike Rance and Perlier-Kelemata, the makeup line, Madina, was launched in its own freestanding stores and has since moved to two points of sale in the Italian department store La Rinascente. It has four stores in Milan, two points-of-sale in La Rinascente stores in Milan and Padua, and a shop in Tokyo. Now the brand’s founder and director, Madina Ferrari, is looking to bring her shops to New York, Rome and London.
And I Coloniali, the Italian treatment and makeup line produced by Atkinson’s, is looking for the right location to launch its own Milan store.
“We’ve really seen customer habits polarize between patterns of buying, which is an activity born of necessity, and shopping, which is a pleasure activity,” said Silvio Pacillo, general manager of Atkinson’s, a division of multinational giant Lever Faberge. “We’re really looking to create a positive in-store experience, which includes not just the product, but entertainment and interaction.”
What he hopes to achieve, Pacillo said, is a 1,614-square-foot concept store based on I Coloniali’s emphasis on well-being products, all of which contain Asian ingredients. Like the I Coloniali line, which emphasizes the five senses, Pacillo said the store would be “a 360-degree experience. We’ll have a store that has relaxation areas, music, a massage center, tea service,” he said, adding that he expected initial investments to run to about 250 million lire.
Pacillo said there were no plans to move the I Coloniali products out of the 2,400 perfumeries currently carrying them in Italy.
“The store will give us daily contact with consumers, and that’s a huge advantage,” said Pacillo.
“It gives us their impressions and we can understand their behavior in a way that is a lot clearer than the information we get from market-research studies. And we will share that information with the perfumeries carrying us.”
But, like his competitors in the manufacturer-to-retail trend, Pacillo said the most important thing was location. “We’re aiming to open in the second semester of 2000, but that’s contingent upon finding the right space,” he said.

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