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Henri Bendel Cutting Ties With Third-Party Vendors

The move will largely affect beauty and jewelry resources at the retailer's Fifth Avenue flagship in New York.

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CUTTING TIES: The final shoe has dropped at Henri Bendel’s Fifth Avenue flagship in New York as letters arrived revealing that parent L Brands decided late last week to cease doing business with third-party vendors, largely affecting beauty and jewelry resources at the store.

According to sources at headquarters and among vendors, the change is being made to allow the flagship to concentrate what management views as its core business: the Bendel’s branded handbags, fashion accessories, fashion jewelry, cosmetics and travel accessories, small leather and hair goods and home fragrances. The decision does not affect Bendel’s other 28 stores or the chain’s Web site, which already are focused on the core business, according to sources. “Why not take that prime space and put the spotlight on our brand, instead of on all brands?” said a source.

Bendel’s expects to start making its transition in the flagship by September. Some of the third-party beauty brands — mostly young niche players — still doing business on Fifth Avenue are Mally Beauty, Butter London, Ciaté, Trish McEvoy, Nars Cosmetics, Per-fekt and L’Artisan Parfumeur, according to the store’s Web site. A rejuvenated Doll Face was relaunched on Fifth Avenue in February.

“It was a shame; it was a great launch pad,” observed Don Pettit, chief executive officer of Mally Beauty. He described the Bendel’s move as “a very sudden decision.” Pettit added, “I think they want to get into a vertical lifestyle brand.”

Tom Winarick, partner in Doll Face, called the exit a “loss to the beauty industry.” He said Bendel’s has been an industry playground, although as a tourist haven, it is hard to make repeat sales there. “Everybody is retrenching, and there are few pioneers anymore.”