NEW YORK — As Benefit Cosmetics celebrates its 30th anniversary this July, a lot more people will soon be discovering the benefits of the company’s products — or so hope its founders, who plan a rapid domestic and international expansion with an aggressive push to open new Benefit boutiques.

“When we first got started, our first-year sales were $65,000,” said Jean Ford, who with twin sister Jane Ford founded the brand in 1976. “We never expected for it to turn into a $300 million global business that’s growing into $500 million.”

This September, the company plans to introduce a number of new products, including Get Bent Lash mascara, $19, which Jane Ford describes as a “wonder-lifting mascara with a bend wand that lifts, lengthens and curls.” Also being launched in September is Some Kind-a Gorgeous foundation, $26, designed for all skin tones with a cream-to-powder formula that leaves the skin with a satin-matte finish. Industry sources estimate Get Bent Lash mascara will generate $8 million in first-year sales, and Some Kind-a Gorgeous could bring in $6.5 million. An eye contouring and concealing kit dubbed Big Beautiful Eyes will also be launched this fall.

And the company isn’t stopping there. Benefit plans to introduce new technology in a color collection, and to broaden its body and skin care range.

As one of the fastest-growing cosmetics companies, Benefit, owned by LVMH, now sells its products at over 700 counters in 13 countries and at five free-standing Benefit boutiques in the San Francisco Bay area.

When the Ford twins founded Benefit, all they wanted was to create simple, problem-solving products with a whimsical spin. “We wanted to come up with a single product that is designed to perform a single function, and it has to do that one thing perfectly. We like to keep it simple and easy,” said Jean Ford.

Benefit initially targeted younger customers, but soon found that the “double generational” brand spoke not only to young women, but to their mothers.

“We have a broad customer base — everyone from women in their 20s through their 50s. She’s a working woman and a sophisticated customer who shops in different channels of distribution,” said Jean Ford.

This story first appeared in the July 7, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Hoping to capitalize on its broad appeal, the company will open three to five boutiques a year. Benefit is opening three boutiques in Chicago in the next four months, one of them in late July in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. The Chicago openings create a launching pad for the company’s “new and improved” brand image that the Fords plan to promote globally, starting next year, in all Benefit boutiques as well as at in-store counters, they said.

“Our goal is to have a wonderful shop that we can go to every day to put makeup on gals, talk, gossip, have some fun and make a living,” said Jane Ford.

The stores will offer everything from eyebrow shaping to mini-makeovers — in a fun environment. The walls are painted in creamy yellow colors with stripes in a matte finish. A ribbed-glass counter that lights up in a soft, peachy pink will serve as the shop’s “bar.” And the boutiques will put makeup in candy jars. “This is a great opportunity for us to evolve the look and feel of boutiques,” said Daniel Giles, Benefit’s vice president of global branding and creative services. “We want to make our customers’ experience even better and create an environment where girls can come in and play in makeup. Since our product is well-packaged and designed, we wanted to bring the same feeling and expertise into our boutiques. We’re pulling out iconic pieces and modernizing them,” said Giles. “Mod with a nod to the past, but it has to be relevant for the design of today.”

By yearend, the company will have eight boutiques in the U.S. and three in England, its second-largest market. Benefit wants to open stores in Philadelphia, New York, Indianapolis, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. However, the company will target only one city at a time, opening boutiques in clusters around the same time.

Though the company will continue its limited magazine advertising, Benefit is hoping to improve customer service by reaching consumers through the Internet and with co-branding promotions.

“We like to treat our customers like royalty,” said Jane Ford. “It’s a feel-good brand. We want women to feel good, because when they feel good, they look good. There’s a touchability that needs to be translated, and we’re devoted to bringing customer service to the forefront.”

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