Printemps Courting Luxury Consumer

The luxury consumer represents a key growth driver for the beauty industry, according to Paolo de Cesare, Printemps' chief executive officer and chairman.

When it comes to beauty, the department store has a specific strategy for selling to its sophisticated, fashion-driven customer.

"As you know, beauty is a difficult market for department stores, and we don't have a Sephora concept and we don't want to compete on price," said de Cesare. "So our approach is really around putting the brands in the center of our store, creating monumental brand counters, creating a full brand expression with cabins and unique launches and bringing exclusive luxury concepts and brands and a customer relationship program."

Printemps' "scent room," selling what it considers to be luxurious and rare fragrances from brands such as By Kilian, has registered 20 percent growth in the last month, he said. "It is a segment that we think has a lot of potential. And these are brands that retail at $100 or more."

De Cesare explained Printemps is concentrating on more open, accessible environments and is testing concepts such as a consultation area for hair and scalp care.

"To create space and visibility for this concept, we have reduced the brand offer by more than 30 percent and we have increased significantly the productivity of the brands we carry," he said. "We are convinced that this is a winning strategy for beauty, and we will continue to pursue this in the next years."

"In conclusion, I think this data shows that even in a slow-growing economy, like France, there are opportunities and some potential to better serve the higher-end consumers," said de Cesare. "I think I'd also suggest that we need a stronger form of collaboration between the retailer and brand manufacturer to meet the high expectations of these consumers."

To this end, de Cesare said Printemps has been working to focus less on margins and more on growth opportunities and new concepts.

"And only once we are confident and sure that we have done the due diligence on this do we discuss the specific financial arrangement," said de Cesare, who explained Printemps has met with its top 200 suppliers to discuss the new strategy.

"We need to move from a confrontational relationship to something that puts consumers at the center and we work together to delight them," he said.
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