Byline: Pete Born

NEW YORK — Aveda has regained its voice in New York, with the reopening last week of a remodeled and expanded 10,000-square-foot salon, school and retail store known as the Aveda Institute New York in SoHo.
The facility offers a full range of spa services, with a staff of 14 spa technicians, offering a choice of 18 treatments and packages, ranging in price from $85 to $125 apiece, in seven rooms. A training hair salon features six styling and coloring stations and two sinks. The school went into session Sept. 9 with an initial class of 12 students. It has a capacity for 136 students in the basic education program, which is designed to lead New York state licenses in cosmetology and esthiology. The hair clinic boasts 50 stations, an advanced training salon and a lounge. The goal is to graduate 150 students a year into the Aveda network of salons, a laudatory objective considering the fact that salon professionals cite the lack of trained personnel as the number one problem facing the industry.
Aveda has occupied the space at 233 Spring Street since 1995. However, a significant amount of the square footage had been used for a distribution center. By increasing the usable space from 7,500 to 10,000 square feet, Aveda was able to add basic education for beginning students who did not have licenses. The Institute previously had offered only advanced classes for already licensed stylists. Also, the spa was moved from the back of the space to near the front and the retail center was put front center, adding to the merchandising impact.
At the front of the institute stands a lifestyle store, which contains Aveda’s line of 500 products and staffed by five beauty advisers. The store occupies 1,000 square feet of the total square footage. The spa takes up another 1,000 square feet and the remaining 8,000 is devoted to education. The entire facility has a staff of 30.
The importance of the opening was underscored by the presence of Aveda founder and now consultant Horst M. Rechelbacher and Dominique Nils Conseil, who took the helm of Aveda July 1 as its new president. Conseil noted that the new institute, like the original Minneapolis school, is impressive in its integration of education, service and retail sales. It’s a place for consumers, for students and the top stylists from the Aveda network.
The Estee Lauder Cos., which acquired Aveda in December 1997 for $300 million in cash, had recruited Conseil from its archrival, the French beauty giant L’Oreal. He had served as president and representative director of Cosmelor Ltd., the Japanese subsidiary of the Parfums & Beaute division based in Tokyo.
Conseil attended the institute opening last week with a number of heavyweights. Along with Rechelbacher, was Fred Langhammer, Lauder president and chief executive officer, and Jeanette S. Wagner, Lauder vice chairman.
In underscoring the significance of the institute reopening, Rechelbacher, who pioneered a philosophy and a system of utilizing plant and flower essences for hair and beauty products, noted that education is the bedrock of any successful company. “Without education, you can’t exist,” he said.
When asked about his priorities in taking the helm, Conseil said his foremost objective is to enhance Aveda’s strength. “The first thing is to preserve the heritage and understand the past because that was the road taken to success,” he said, adding that it is imperative “not to get off the road. The future will come from a continuation of adhering to the principals of the heritage.”
That said, however, he added, “We need to give a second wind to the brand.” Conseil pointed out that a number of the products “have been around for some time.” A clear objective is to service the salon network and Aveda’s reshaped and upgraded distribution chain.
Aveda has been refocusing its field of distributors to those who concentrate on the company’s brand. Likewise, the number of salons have been cut from 24,000 to 8,200 in an effort to work with either Aveda concept salons or those that concentrate their business on Aveda and no more than three other brands, according to Tom Petrillo, senior vice president of sales and education. “What we have done is focus on quality not quantity,” he said, noting that the number of concept salons has risen by 22 percent to over 2,300.
Although Aveda does not break out projections, industry sources say that executives have been talking in terms of tripling the business over the next five years. Aveda’s current volume has been estimated at $250 million.