At, Beauty Is Brand Deep

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Only seven months after launching, has broadened its focus from designer apparel and accessories to high-end beauty products as part of a drive to mirror the offerings available in Neiman Marcus department stores and catalogs.

In the last week alone, the online retailer doubled the number of brands it offers to 60 well-known labels in cosmetics, fragrances, skincare products and beauty accessories. Clearly, the beauty store at is brand-driven.

"We don't subscribe to the theory that a woman comes online and wants a red lipstick," said Gayle Tremblay, vice president at Neiman Marcus Online. "We subscribe to the theory that she comes on and shops by the brand to which she is loyal, and we organize the site so that she can select items from her cosmetics or treatment company."

Accordingly, NeimanMarcus has built online boutiques for brands like Anna Sui, Guerlain, Sisley Paris, John Barrett, Acqua di Parma, Laura Mercier, Bvlgari, Jil Sander, Yohji Yamamoto, Annick Goutal and Gucci.

"We expect this to become a very significant part of our business," Tremblay said.

To spread the word of the retailer's beefed-up beauty offering, NeimanMarcus will ride piggyback on all consumer communications and advertising from its store and catalog arms. Online, news of the beauty store occupies the entire NeimanMarcus home page, supported by e-mail to opted-in online consumers.

Neiman Marcus, Dallas, said it will spend $20 million to grow its online store in a market that has attracted a host of new start-ups and only recently the attention of traditional cosmetics companies.

"The collection of brands that we have together on our site is more comprehensive to anyone out there in terms of a luxury marketplace," Tremblay said, adding that the "online offering is almost exactly the same as the off-line offering [in stores and catalogs]."

But no upscale online beauty store is complete without products from Lancome, Estee Lauder and Clinique -- three brands that command a major share of the luxury cosmetics market and that don't supply products directly to third-party online retailers.

NeimanMarcus is working to change that, Tremblay said.

"We actually have an agreement with [Estee] Lauder now and will be adding some of their lines," she said. "[But Estee Lauder's] Bobbi Brown is coming online in 2001." She added that the company is negotiating with Lancome. "The only one that we don't have is Chanel," she said.

However late its full-fledged foray into the online beauty market, NeimanMarcus feels its established ties with cosmetics manufacturers for stocking stores and catalogs gives it an edge over rivals in terms of product offerings.

"We have long-term relationships with these beauty vendors," Tremblay said. "You know, many pure-plays have been unable to strike agreements with them because they didn't have a pre-existing relationship with them."

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