Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Jo Malone is getting ready to set up shop in America.
The trendy British beauty entrepreneur, whose business was acquired by the Estee Lauder Cos. last October, will open her first U.S. outpost here in December with a 1,200-square-foot shop in the Flatiron building on Broadway at 23rd Street.
The Malone line of fragrances and skin care products already has a foothold here with distribution in four North American stores. The brand is now sold at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, two Saks Fifth Avenue stores in Chicago and Troy, Mich., and at Holt Renfrew in Toronto.
But the Flatiron store will be the brand’s showcase, according to Pamela Baxter, senior vice president and general manager of the Malone and La Mer brands plus the Aramis division and Tommy Hilfiger Toiletries.
“It’s going to allow us to present Jo Malone to the American consumer in a way that’s in keeping with its London heritage,” Baxter said, adding that Lauder intends to recruit London natives to staff the New York store.
Baxter acknowledged that the Flatiron venture will serve as a laboratory for the prospect of opening stores in other parts of the country. Baxter said she could see more stores in other cities with heavily trafficked downtown areas, like Las Vegas.
She also added that negotiations are underway with Neiman Marcus and talks are in progress to open more Saks stores. Baxter said she would like to enlarge the total North American distribution to 10 doors by June 30, 2000, the end of Lauder’s next fiscal year.
The New York store will be about the same size as the main London store, and Lauder executives aim to replicate the ambience. As in London, the Flatiron unit will have a fragrance smelling booth. The size of a phone booth, it is designed to allow customers to select two of Malone’s 14 fragrances and mix them together in a spray that permeates the air. The scent then can be evacuated by activating a suction device, allowing customers to try as many combinations as they wish.
The layout of the London store is divided into three sections and that plan also will be followed in New York. The first section will have fragrances, the second will feature environmental products like candles and the third will contain treatment rooms. Malone herself will do facials during a week of appointments.
As an added service, customers will be able to have products sent as gifts.
During the store’s construction, the front of the building will be covered with a temporary facade designed to mimic one of Malone’s trademark gift boxes. Baxter noted that in London Malone does a very strong gift business. Even though she started in skin care, that category now generates only 10 to 15 percent of her business.
Lauder does not break out sales projections, but sources estimate that the Flatiron store could do $2.5 million in retail sales the first year. That estimate is based on the strong business that is done at Bergdorf’s, which has been estimated by sources at $1.7 million annually.
Lauder has rented the entire retail ground floor in the Flatiron building with the remaining space going to the MAC Cosmetics and Origins divisions. The Malone store will be on the Broadway side, however, and Baxter considers that the most heavily trafficked section of the building.
She said that originally Lauder wanted to open a Jo Malone store on Madison Avenue, but decided against that location because it is too close to Bergdorf’s, where Malone ranks number two.
Similarly, SoHo was passed up simply because it is already too crowded with cosmetics stores.
Asked if she had any concerns about the checkered history of businesses that have tried to make a go of the Flatiron space in the past, Baxter said the area has exploded with thriving businesses like ABC Carpet & Home, Paragon and Restoration Hardware. Sephora recently opened its newest store a couple of blocks away.
Just to make sure, Baxter spent the better part of a Saturday afternoon standing on the sidewalk and observing traffic. Dazzled with the crush of 20- and 30-year-olds, she observed, “The district is blossoming.”

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