Bigelow Arrives in Boston
BOSTON — The Limited Brand’s Bath & Body Works division assembled beauty’s version of a dream team to launch the C.O. Bigelow unit in Copley Place mall downtown here.
There, cheek by jowl in a 1,500- square-foot space last Thursday, were Harry Slatkin and Cornelia Guest, Pat Wexler, Sally Hershberger, Frédéric Fekkai, Jack Davies and Warren Tricomi, among others.
For Ian Ginsberg, whose family owns the original Bigelow’s in Greenwich Village, the gathering was like a transplanted slice of Manhattan. Glancing at Wexler (the celebrity dermatologist was showing off how her mulberry, stingray watchband provided color direction for her line’s packaging), Ginsberg recalled that she grew up on 12th Street, around the corner from the 167-year-old apothecary. Wexler’s mother, Mildred, was a Bigelow’s regular.
Even without a personal history, executives were salivating over the prospect of a new and growing prestige retail chain to take the sting out of department store consolidation.
“We love being here in an apothecary setting,” said Nick Braden, managing director of L’Occitane. “It’s a very good way to tell brand stories.”
BBW not only brought in industry firepower, but social clout, as well. Anthony Shriver and mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver, looking pure Kennedy in double-strand pearls and blue Armani, hosted a charity shopping evening in the store last Wednesday to benefit Best Buddies, the Shriver family philanthropy for mentally handicapped individuals.
The pair flew in from California, where the younger Shriver biked with his sister, Maria Shriver, California’s first lady, in a 100-mile charity ride to the Hearst Castle.
Bigelow next will bring the fanfare to Chicago, where it is opening three stores. The goal is three or four stores per major U.S. metropolitan market.
Neil Fiske, BBW president, said he is hoping for a “quiet revolution. Beauty retailing in the U.S. has gotten a little boring.”
The store is deliberately smaller than the test store in Easton Town Center, the lifestyle mall outside Columbus, Ohio, where Limited Brands chairman and chief executive officer Leslie Wexner tries out new concepts.
The Easton Bigelow will begin using some of its extra space for spa services. Such services are tricky to manage and likely will not be a standard part of the Bigelow expansion, Fiske said.
BBW house brands are heavily represented at the Boston store, which follows Easton in using white walls and fixtures, a dark floor and a scalloped interior that moves visitors in a giant figure eight. Fifteen percent of the assortment is C.O. Bigelow’s own line and/or products owned by Limited Brands (Wexler’s skin care line, Slatkin & Co.’s home fragrance products and Henri Bendel’s candles, for example).
Limited also opened a C.O. Bigelow location near Boston in Peabody, Mass., on Friday.
- Starting at holiday, Slatkin will unroll table linens, candlesticks and other home accessories in C.O. Bigelow stores. Slatkin said he is planning an 80- to 100-stockkeeping-unit home lifestyle line.
- Fresh’s Supernova mascara is the company’s number-one sku in its own stores, selling 800 units in three weeks, said co-founder Lev Glazman. The densely bristled patented brush took five years to develop.
- A $95 Face Volumizer is the best-selling sku from Sally Hershberger’s new line for The Face Place.
- Neiman Marcus, which has a product exclusive until Jan. 1, has sold more than 1,000 units of Frédéric Fekkai’s $195 overnight repair cream in four months.
— Katherine Bowers
Boots to Sell Healthcare Division
LONDON — Boots Group Plc has agreed to sell its Boots Healthcare International division, which includes the Clearasil skin care brand, to Reckitt Benckiser Plc.
The cash deal, weighing in at 1.91 billion pounds, or $3.4 billion at current exchange, comes as Boots polishes up its profile in the run-up to its proposed merger with Alliance UniChem. As reported, the pair will form Alliance Boots, which is to become Europe’s leading retail pharmacy firm.
“Together, with the announcement of the proposed merger with Alliance UniChem, this disposal allows us to focus on our plans to create a world-class, pharmacy-led health care group,” stated Richard Baker, chief executive officer of Boots. “BHI has performed strongly over the last three years, delivering excellent organic growth and outperforming its market. I firmly believe that the prospects for the business remain strong, and with the commitment and focus that Reckitt Benckiser will bring to the business, that it will continue to thrive.”
Reckitt Benckiser was said to have been among six final bidders for the division.
Following the sale of BHI, which also comprises the E45, Nurofen, Strepsils, Lutsine, Sweetex and Optrex brands, Boots will return approximately 1.43 billion pounds, or $2.53 billion, to its shareholders in a special dividend, while 400 million pounds, or $707 million, will be invested in Boots and Alliance Boots.
The BHI deal, which is subject to antitrust and Boots shareholder approval, is expected to close in 2006. The Boots merger with Alliance UniChem is anticipated to be concluded by next year, as well.
— Brid Costello