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Canada’s Jean Coutu Secures Clinique

More European-inspired than U.S. drugstores, Canada's merchants get beauty names not available to America's mass retailers.

Last week’s announcement that Canada’s Jean Coutu Group would start selling Clinique raised the hopes of many U.S. drug chains that they might also secure the coveted brand.

But those familiar with the Canadian market, where Clinique has been sold in Shopper Drug Mart for years, said that’s not likely to happen at this juncture.

While U.S. chains are doing an impressive job of burnishing their image, they still lag behind Canada in ambiance and service, explained brands selling in Canada. Compounding that issue is the fact the department store trade is sparse in Canada with large geographical areas not covered.

Jean Coutu officials said Clinique will be in several of its affiliated stores in Quebec and New Brunswick as well as Jean Coutu online. The chain dominates the Canadian pharmacy business with an estimated 50 percent of total sales. That is complemented with an upscale beauty department staffed by one to four consultants at all times and offering beauty brands such as Caudalie, Biotherm and Jouviance. In store beauty services include skin analysis, makeup touch-ups and a makeup trial program. Jean Coutu operates 418 stores in three provinces with average sales per store pegged at about $12 million. Beauty is front and center at the entrance to stores and the category is estimated to approach 10 percent of sales at some locations. Stores are decorated lavishly for seasonal events, especially holiday.

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“We are pleased to offer Clinique products, previously available only in large centers, over a wider territory. The implementation will be staggered over three years. Fifty four stores will carry the brand by August 2017,” said Christian Comtois, senior manager, cosmetics at Jean Coutu Group.

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Artur Klepacz, brand general manager at Clinique Canada and Lab Series for Men said Clinique’s beauty vision is “in line” with Jean Coutu’s customers.

Jean Coutu will stock the popular skin-care lines such as the famous 3-Step system, Acne Solutions products, the men’s line, the Smart franchise, antiaging skin care and several recent products. Makeup will also be featured at Jean Coutu. Some brand standouts such as Chubby Sticks, foundations and lipsticks, as well as several new launches will be available.

Jean Coutu already carried two fragrances for women and one for men: Clinique Happy (men and women) and Aromatics Elixir.

“I think Clinique’s additional distribution will attract new users and will be supportive to their e-commerce business. Channels have blurred and will continue to do so,” said industry consultant Allen Mottus.

Inspired by European apothecaries, Canada’s leading drug doors sell brands such as Clinique, Clarins, Lise Watier, Biotherm and Lancôme. Perhaps the most upscale of all is Shoppers Drug Mart with more than 1,200 doors. Earlier this year, Shoppers Drug Mart upgrades its L’Oréal Active Cosmetics department with a fresh approach to the derm skin-care lines, which include Vichy and LaRoche-Posay.

Shoppers Drug Mart also offers the Joe Fresh Beauty line consisting of more than 150 new cosmetics products, all under $18. Another proprietary line is Quo, which launched in 1999.

Other Canadian powers include Rexall, London Drug, Katz, Brunet and Uniprix.

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