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Selling the Experience

Posted: August 26, 2008, from the September 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Napoleon Perdis Cosmetics recently opened four luxurious concept stores in California. Designed with elegance and warmth in mind, the stores encourage women to discover their inner celebrities as makeup artists guide them through the collection. Currently, the brand has 52 stand-alone concept stores. “Our focus is on creating a treasure chest experience, where makeup is a discovery of precious pieces,” said Napoleon Perdis, founder and CEO, Napoleon Perdis Cosmetics.

Retail environments that include education, allow sampling and impart a feeling of pampering will draw in the luxury customer. “We want to create a bridge to accessibility for the customer, allowing women to feel empowered and using the product as merely the word or pictures in the story for the story they want to tell,” said Perdis.

Manhattan is filled with great examples of how to do luxury retail right. For example, Bond No. 9 handcrafts scents based on New York neighborhoods, inviting customers to indulge in scents of their favorite haunts. The look of the perfume shop is elegant, and the fragrances are featured in glass amphoras held by curvaceous, larger-than-life mannequins. Adding to the ambiance, designer flacons are refillable, and perfume is purchased by the ounce. Caswell-Massey creates an opulent experience by invoking nostalgia and taking its customers back in time through packaging and fragrances. Appealing to emotion with nostalgia and aspirational profiling, retailers provide uniqueness and individuality that contributes to a luxury atmosphere.

All about Atmosphere

Creating a welcoming atmosphere isn’t simply about the lights and music—it must grow organically. A contagious atmosphere is often created by the staff and the stock itself. Unusual and unique stock draws customers’ inquisitiveness, inviting them to explore. Paradox environments create the unexpected, compelling the curiosity of the customer. While neat and orderly are appealing, consumers enjoy flair within retail displays. By converging atmosphere, design and merchandise, a retailer can create a unified story that sells its customers on its luxury experience. This convergence includes simple techniques such as selling from the side of the counter, not behind it. By engaging the customer, the luxury retailer also encourages loyalty.

“We bring out the celebrity by allowing the customer to feel like they can play and dabble without restricting, ensuring that the store environment evokes a time of oasis for a woman coming into the store where she’s happy to take her time,” said Perdis. Bergdorf Goodman uses personal appearances by makeup artists, such as Bobby Brown, and services such as personal shoppers, in-store boutiques and estheticians who administer authentic Japanese services. Additionally, the store takes advantage of its clout to offer brand exclusives and court innovative new brands.

The Next Generation of Luxury