Department store beauty retail gets a digital update

Department store beauty retail at Saks 5th Avenue gets digital update

Saks Fifth Avenue is rethinking its beauty retail and services concepts and opening new digital salons / spas / makeup counters in partnership with renowned hair colorist Joel Warren. The Salon Project will roll out in stores over the next two years.

Department stores have been experimenting with new ways to sell cosmetics and personal care since specialty retailers like Ulta and Sephora and all things digital and have been successfully disrupting the conventional beauty counter model.  

It’s been a couple of years now since Macy’s bought Bluemercury in a move to diversify its beauty business. At the time, Macy’s then CEO, Terry J. Lundgren explained the acquisition saying, “with Bluemercury, our company can access a new channel to reach additional customers, add new dimensions to our product offering and apply our expertise in omnichannel retailing,” as Cosmetics Design reported.

Much more recently, Bloomingdales announced its new Glowhaus concept which will see the retailer merchandise 30 beauty brands and some 800 products on the contemporary floor to capture the attention and dollars of millennials already shopping for apparel there.

Future forward

The Salon Project at Saks is meant to economize and modernize the beauty consumer experience. “This is the salon of the future by combining stores like Apple, Sephora and a high-end salon and spa,” Joel Warren, a professional hair colorist and the creative principal on the project, tells the press.

The new beauty service and shopping format will be equipped with all the latest tech and incorporate all the pampering and convenience of a high-touch spa. “As soon as guests walk in,” says Warren, “they will literally enter a virtual reality.”

“Screens will be set up right at the entrance, which will allow clients the ability to virtually try on lipsticks and other cosmetics, then purchase products or add on services on the spot,” he explains in a press release about the Saks beauty retail update.

Consumer watching

Beauty brands often talk about the valuable perspective and information that retail staff have because of their close contact with the public. Pros like Warren bring another level insight to the mix.

“I noticed the way that many salons do things isn't as efficient as it could be, so I started thinking about how to make it better and more profitable and realized it would be easier to bring everything to the client,” says Warren, who goes on to acknowledge that “operating salons and creating hair care products for over the past 20-years has brought me to these realizations.”

Practical matters

These new in-store beauty boutiques will be expansive, ranging in size (depending on the location) from 3,000 square feet to 5,000 square feet.

The Saks' Huntington, Long Island, store will be the first site to open The Salon Project. And over the next two year, 10 Saks stores will launch this format. “Houston and Boca Raton will be the second and third salons to open by 2018,” according to the press release.

And, the 5th Avenue flagship location in New York City is slated to open a The Salon Project space in October of 2019.

Bruce E. Teitelbaum; CEO of RPG, the firm behind the design of The Salon Project predicts, “Joel's incredible talent and knowledge along with the prestige and allure of Saks and RPG's creative and manufacturing expertise should prove to be a winning combination.”

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