A New York retailer is introducing to Los Angeles what might be called the Home Depot of the beauty world.
Cosmetics Plus which recently opened two local stores, one in Beverly Hills and one in Westlake Village, employs a strategy similar to the one used by high-volume, discount-oriented “category killers.”
Rather than offer a few select product lines in a boutique setting, as has been the tradition for beauty product retailers, Cosmetics Plus offers a huge assortment of products under one roof.
But they differ from so-called category killers in that they don’t discount prices as done by warehouse-type outlets or discount fragrance stores.
The array of products at Cosmetics Plus stores is daunting. Its wall of perfume contains hundreds of bottles, common names like Givenchy and Yves St. Laurent displayed next to obscure brands, such as Quel Ques Fleurs and Courreges. In the cosmetics aisles, mass brands such as Maybelline can be found alongside such upscale brands as Marcella Borghese and Orlane.
Body and bath products, a segment that has enjoyed skyrocketing sales in recent years, includes the Caswell Massey brand.
It’s a concept Cosmetics Plus has been employing in New York for the past 23 years, having grown the local chain to 20 stores there. The two L.A. stores are its first outside New York, and mark the beginning of a national expansion.
Cosmetics Plus’ 3,000-square-foot Beverly Hills store offers 30,000 items from dozens of product lines.
The stock changes every day and includes every shade of lipstick imaginable, said Robin Bartosh, who with his wife, Toby, founded and own the chain.
Both its L.A.-area stores feature salons, Cosmetics Plus has paired with Carlton/Linear Hair to operate Linear Plus Salons in the rear of the California stores.
“We’re very value-oriented but we don’t advertise or push price,” Bartosh said. “What makes us unique is that you can be reading a magazine while having your hair done and then within a few steps, you can purchase the products you were just reading about.”
Bartosh developed the concept for the store as he traveled the country selling beauty products. “When I was younger, I would walk into a drugstore and see crutches, roach spray and in the middle of all this, a sign for Chanel or Arpege,” he said.
Offering customers an environment packed with nothing but beauty products made much more sense to Bartosh. He felt that there should be a better way to showcase what he calls “the most beautifully designed products in the world.”
The couple designed Cosmetics Plus to mirror the parfumaries of Paris. “Our stores are designed and run with someone like my wife in mind,” Bartosh says of his lawyer-partner wife. “When we started the store, she was in her twenties. Now, 25 years later, it has evolved into the type of store that she would be comfortable shopping at.”
Bartosh said Los Angeles was selected as the first expansion market because the women here have a high recognition of beauty and self-awareness and the disposable income to support it. “The reason we came to Los Angeles is because (Angelenos) have nothing like us, but they understand our business; we’re necessary for Los Angeles,” he said.
Bartosh said they had been eyeing the L.A. market for several years and finally decided that the time was right. “Women in Los Angeles are even more interested in looking and feeling better about themselves than women in New York,” he said. “Just take a walk down Rodeo Drive and you’ll see that not only do California women show more skin, but there are more of them (than in New York) who really do take care of themselves.”
Because New York and L.A. women use the same products, there aren’t any differences in how the stores are stocked. “You would think that we would sell more sunscreen-type products in California than in New York, but the purchases in both locales mirror each other,” he said.
But retail analyst Richard Giss, a partner in the trade retail services group of Deloitte & Touche LLP, questioned the wisdom of replicating the New York stores in Los Angeles.
“You have to buy and display the products differently than in New York,” Giss said. “(Beverly Hills) is the right area to put that concept in, but its success is dependent upon adapting to West Coast tastes, such as lighter fragrances and less heavy make-up.”
And while carrying such an array of products increases the odds that customers will find what they want, it’s harder for salespeople to be knowledgeable about the store’s entire stock, according to Carolien Fehmers, manager of the Aveda store at Beverly Center.
Aveda stocks its stores with just one brand.
“Our customers are buying into a whole philosophy and lifestyle when they shop here,” she said. “There’s no way customers can expect to get the same kind of service at a store (like Cosmetics Plus).”