NEW YORK — The Lancôme Division of L’Oréal USA has opened its first freestanding boutique in the city, with expectations of making it the national pacesetter in the brand’s steadily growing chain of U.S. boutiques.
The new boutique, Lancôme’s fourth in the U.S., opened Wednesday at 201 Columbus Avenue at 69th Street on the Upper West Side, with 2,200 square feet of selling space — roughly twice the size of the others. Lancôme opened its first boutique, a 1,000-square-foot store, in the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey in 2004. The other two locations opened their doors in Dallas and San Jose, Calif., this past November.
The New York unit is Lancôme’s first non-mall store and is considered the division’s U.S. flagship. The global flagship, which opened in 1935, is in Paris on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
Eric Lauzat, Lancôme’s U.S. president, described the new store as “the ultimate expression of the brand, and it is controlled by us.” In addition to projecting the Lancôme image, he added, these stores also are tremendous profit generators. The Columbus Avenue flagship also is located in the middle of an uptown retail migration of other beauty destinations — MAC, Aveda, Kiehl’s, Clarins and L’Occitane — and, therefore, the new Lancôme store will provide a laboratory of sorts.
Lauzat said one lesson that has been learned so far is that the business can be somewhat incremental. In Short Hills, “we did not jeopardize the existing business. We think the clients of the boutique are not the same as the clients in the department store anchors.”
Lauzat and other Lancôme executives seem receptive to opening a serious number of boutiques, once the results are in and opportunities present themselves. According to Brian Jarvis, vice president of retail development at L’Oréal USA, the optimum number of additions would add up to two to five boutiques a year for the foreseeable future. Locations are being sought in lifestyle centers to avoid cannibalization of Lancôme’s mall distribution, he added.
Lauzat and other L’Oréal executives refused to discuss sales projections and budgets. But industry sources estimate first-year sales approaching $3 million, with a building cost of the boutique estimated at roughly more than $1 million.
Lauzat also pointed out that unlike a department store counter, the boutique will be free of gift-with-purchase and other promotional gimmicks. The brand will promote itself. “We will adapt ourselves to the individual needs of women,” Lauzat said.
The boutique boasts two treatment cabines — offering services like facials, glycolic peels and microdermabrasion — and the extra retail space is dedicated to features like a full skin care bar and a brow-shaping station, according to Bridget Johns, director of retail operations. The boutique also offers a computerized skin analysis system for customers, whose profiles will form a registry. Since it is a neighborhood business, the boutique staff will wage an outreach program. The windows will bear a changing collage of graphics promoting different products from month to month.
For the opening, a squad of Beret Boys will stroll the neighborhood today and Saturday, distributing 600 roses to women with invitations to visit the boutique and receive a free sample. One rose will bear a golden ticket that will contain a $500 gift certificate. In addition, 100 V.I.P. cards will be distributed to what a committee decides are New York’s 100 chicest women, who will be in line for news on new products and discounts.