LOOK Boutique opens eyes

3/4/2015

 Jaws dropped six years ago when Duane Reade unwrapped its first LOOK Boutique. The concept exemplified what many drug store merchants had only dreamed about — a selection brimming with prestige brands presented in an environment on par with specialty stores.



Duane Reade further upped the ante in 2011 — then owned by Walgreens, which purchased it the year before — with a flagship at 40 Wall St. Situated in the former bank, the store has in-store hair styling, manicures, a brow bar and hundreds of premium brands. “We live like prestige, but our address is a drug store,” said Marcia Gaynor, the DMM for prestige beauty at Walgreens LOOK Boutiques.



Walgreens liked the concept so much that it launched LOOK Boutiques in some of its best beauty doors. There are now 54 stores with the concept, with an addition of recently opened location in Hawaii.



Traveling abroad and to numerous trade shows, Gaynor said the store concept attracts brands that industry veterans never expected to see in mass. “We want our shoppers to be delighted all the time,” said Gaynor, echoing the overarching message that Walgreens wants to be the most shopped and love beauty destination.



“I love hearing women say, ‘I didn’t know you carried this, or I wasn’t expecting this,” added Gaynor when talking about the selection. Among some of the notable brands are Cargo Cosmetics, the Balm, Le Couvent des Minimes, Talika, Dr. Hauschka, Skin & Co., Oscar Blandi, Vincent Longo and Minus 417. Gaynor said three new skin care lines from France and Switzerland will debut soon. “They are so unique and not like anything in our store,” she said.



Another differentiating factor at LOOK Boutiques are such services as manicures, lash applications, skin care analysis and hydration checks. The Boots No7 line also is an important component in LOOK Boutiques. “One woman almost gave me a heart attack one day,” Gaynor recalled, referring to the screams of joy one woman made upon finding Boots No7 in the store. Gaynor said the No7 line presence helps burnish the overall image of the department.



Upholding high standards in the department has widened the scope of brands willing to sell products in LOOK Boutiques. Gaynor recalled “never being so nervous” than when opening the first LOOK Boutique department and having 16 bays to fill. “There were companies who said they liked what we were doing, but they just weren’t ready [to sell in a drug chain],” she said.



Now, many suppliers are changing their tune. LOOK Boutique departments are meticulously kept, with testers at the ready and highly educated Beauty Advisors. “We want to be grand opening-ready every day. Companies like to challenge the staff,” chuckled Gaynor. “They don’t identify who they are, and they ask questions of the Beauty Advisors. I’m proud to say [the Beauty Advisors] passed every test.”



She said educating the Beauty Advisors is one of the most important facets of the LOOK Boutique, on par with having premium merchandise. “It doesn’t matter what brands you bring in,” she explained, if the person selling isn’t trained to explain the benefits. “We get letters all the time praising our Beauty Advisors, and saying they’ve helped find products that changed women’s lives. It warms your heart.”



The beauty experts also help LOOK Boutique avoid traditional discounting, instead offering gifts with purchase like department stores often do. The in-store experts also guide Gaynor and her teams on product lines or categories to bring in to the stores. “The shopper helps determine our assortment,” she said. For the most part, Walgreens is ahead of the trends.



LOOK Boutiques also stage in-store events, including bridal party makeovers, graduation events and even runway shows in conjunction with Fashion Week at a store near the Lincoln Center in New York City. Gaynor is blown away with the activity on Twitter that new store opening tweets generate. And Walgreens keeps tabs on the activity of bloggers and their influence on consumers.



Although Gaynor shies away from the limelight, she’s always willing to chat about beauty. “I love the business. It is always changing. There’s always something new, whether it is colors or technologies. If you blink, you could miss the next hottest thing out there,” she said. So far for LOOK Boutique, Gaynor hasn’t missed a beat.


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