NEW YORK — In the race to charm discerning beauty consumers, specialty retailers are scrambling to add niche brands to their assortments. Their attraction to little-known lines has given visibility to fledging companies like Principessa.

Victoria’s Secret Beauty recently cleared room in 13 of its stores for Principessa, an ultragirly bath and body collection packaged in the retailer’s signature pink and black.

Since Principessa was launched at the Extracts show two years ago, the Vancouver manufacturer has made inroads into the U.S. market by selling to indie beauty boutiques. Principessa — the Italian word for “princess” — is sold in 200 stores worldwide. Most of the stores, or about 120, are located in Canada, but the company also distributes to retailers in the U.K., Ireland, Japan and Hong Kong.

Principessa’s footing in Victoria’s Secret Beauty has secured the company’s goal of doubling its current sales to $500,000 this year, said founder Trish Lucarino. Should the 13-store test prove successful, the retailer may decide to begin rolling out Principessa — in 100-door increments — to its full distribution base of 507 stores, said Lucarino.

For the introduction, Victoria’s Secret Beauty has selected an assortment of eight items, including Dolce Dreams Body Lotion, Fresh Fiore Shower Cream, Cattiva Diva Silky Hand Cream, and Principessa’s logo T-shirt.

Prior to starting her beauty business, Lucarino and her husband, Angelo, ran a paint and body shop for heavy machinery. After selling the company, the couple traveled to Italy to research ingredients and began fleshing out a plan for a beauty business.

“We always joke that we went from one type of body shop to [another],” said Lucarino.

She acknowledged she did not know how Principessa found its way onto Victoria’s Secret Beauty’s radar screen. Lucarino got an inkling of the retailer’s interest when she received an order for each of Principessa’s products from the company’s headquarters in Columbus, Ohio.

Lucarino said, “People have been so enthusiastic and supportive of the brand.”

This story first appeared in the March 3, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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