Byline: Cassandra Chiacchio

NEW YORK — H2O Plus has opened its first store in SoHo and, with its water-based products in mind, created a selling space reminiscent of an underwater haven. The 1200-square-foot store, which opened at 460 West Broadway earlier this month, features glowing blue and white lights, a concrete floor and water trickling down the back wall.
According to Cindy Melk, founder and chief executive officer of H2O Plus, the SoHo store has done well despite its soft opening. While pedestrians might be attracted to the store because of its brightly lit entrance, once inside, they are spending money. Melk attributes part of this to the store’s calming atmosphere. “The customers that shop here live a fast-paced life,” she said. “We like to think of our store as an oasis.”
First-year retail sales for the SoHo store are expected to reach $1.5 million, noted Melk.
When the first H2O Plus location opened in 1989, it was primarily focused on bath and body, which was still a new market at the time. Since then, however, bath and body shops have been springing up all over, so Melk, who is also in charge of creative production, decided to shift gears. “Over the last three years, we’ve changed the mix,” she said. “Now, over 50 percent of our line is skin care.”
The Chicago-based company has more than 70 stores worldwide and specializes in the creation of water-based products mixed with minerals and nutrients from the sea. “Water is the foundation of the company,” said Melk. “We have a purist approach when it comes to making products. They are 100 percent oil-free, and we use a lot of marine elements.” The SoHo store opened with 195 products, all in minimalist packaging, with prices ranging from $12 to $65. The future may signal higher price points for the company, as they continue to create more sophisticated products. “Everything’s evolving,” added Melk. “We plan to add 30 to 40 new products annually.
Melk had been waiting for the right location in SoHo for a while. When the Broadway location opened up, Melk found herself among others vying for the space. “We felt this location was very representative of the community and of our company office,” she said. The store’s staff is another source of pride for Melk. “I work with an amazing group of people,” she said, adding that the combined staff at the SoHo store can speak a total of five languages.
The selling space offers streamlined fixtures recessed in the walls and a concrete demonstration area, complete with sink, where customers can try featured products.
The store opened with a gift-with-purchase promotion. When customers spend $15, they receive about $30 worth of sample-sized products.
Retail sales worldwide for H2O Plus is expected to hit $75 million this year. Melk expects that number to rise to $90 million for 2001. This includes sales from the H20plus.com e-tail site.
In February, the company will introduce a new fragrance in time for Valentine’s Day. They also plan to extend the product line with a new environment protection category and launch a new line of cosmetics.

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