Byline: Kerry Diamond

NEW YORK — It’s a busy time for the beauty department at Henri Bendel. The lively first floor is getting a bit of a makeover — a few nips and tucks rather than a full face-lift — and several new exclusive brands will be added to the product mix.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Ed Burstell, Bendel’s vice president and general manager.
The work, which industry sources estimate will cost under $500,000, began in January 2000 and will be completed in January 2001.
The renovation, Burstell stressed, isn’t a way for Henri Bendel to catch up with the beauty retail activity that has engulfed the city. The past two years in New York have brought five Sephoras and major renovations of beauty departments at Bloomingdale’s, Bergdorf Goodman and Macy’s East at Herald Square. And that’s on top of the beauty boutique explosion in SoHo.
Rather, Burstell said, it’s a way to stay ahead of the pack.
“Everyone has caught up to us, so that forces us to move forward,” he noted. “You would think that the Rockefeller Center Sephora or Bergdorf Goodman would be a retail hit for us, since they are nearby. Actually, it’s pooled more cosmetics shopping in this area. We’ve seen double-digit increases over the last four seasons.”
The renovation could boost sales by as much as 20 percent. Burstell declined to comment on sales, but industry sources report that the department did approximately $15 million last year.
Bendel’s beauty department is a bit of a wild child when compared to those at other specialty and department stores in the area. Where else could you find things like Oh La La Kiss My Ass moisturizer or New York Trash snack mix. Those are the extremes, but the department is known as a haven for independent — and independent-minded — brands like MAC, Trish McEvoy, Laura Mercier, Joey New York, Too Faced, Three Custom Color Specialists and L’Artisan Parfumeur.
In fact, two of Bendel’s most established cosmetics brands, Bobbi Brown and Chanel, have recently disappeared from the department. It was a mutual decision between the store and the brands, said Laura Saio, Bendel’s cosmetics and fragrance buyer. “We found our customer wasn’t coming to our store for brands like that,” she said. “They come to us for newness and exclusivity.”
Moving forward, Bendel will focus even more on unique products. The company is in the process of adding several brands that it will carry on an exclusive basis, including Delux Beauty, Franche, Jeni Lee, Ling, Lori Lombardi, Pixi, Skin Alison Raffaele, Tarte, Time 2, Valerie Beverly Hills and Wu.
“We’ve worked so hard to get this far, and this newness is incredible,” said Saio. “We’re really proud to be launching these brands.”
The renovation, which will help showcase the existing brands and make room for the newcomers, is not an extensive overhaul, because the building’s landmark status limits what can be done, noted Teril Turner, Bendel’s director of marketing.
As part of the work, Laura Mercier and Trish McEvoy, two of the store’s top performers, will have new counters. A section of the floor will be devoted to McEvoy’s fragrance business and will feature all nine of her scents, plus a custom-blending service.
The canopy near the spiral staircase has been removed, giving the area an airier feel. The novelty tables, which are always filled with a wacky assortment of gifts, will remain in the center aisle. The purple room, or the Beauty News Room as it is officially called, will be extended back by four to six feet and outfitted with new caselines. The Beauty & Soul area, where skin care and home spa-type items are sold, will be extended back as well.
The final part of the renovation involves a rehaul of the MAC shop in-shop, which is a large room devoted to the company with its own Fifth Avenue entrance. MAC is Bendel’s best-selling brand. “The renovation will make it look like one of their stores,” said Burstell.

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