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VOL. 122 | NO. 19 | Friday, February 2, 2007

Lookin' Good

Beauty chain plans to open two stores in greater Memphis

By Andy Meek

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PRETTY PACKAGE: Wolfchase Galleria, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, soon will become home to one of two Sephora
locations opening in the Memphis area. -- Photo By Andy Meek

The high-end cosmetics store whose name reportedly is derived from the Greek word for beauty is poised to bring a new fragrance to the Memphis market this year.

Sephora - the skin care and beauty chain that operates more than 500 stores in 14 countries - is entering the Memphis market in the coming months with the launch of stores in two of the city's premier shopping centers.

One of the retail stores will open in The Avenue Carriage Crossing, Collierville's 75-store lifestyle center that opened in 2005. The other will open in Wolfchase Galleria.

Sephora's company job hotline includes a recorded message intended for anyone who wishes to apply at the Collierville store, which is said to be opening in early March. Matt Gove, a spokesman for Cousins Properties - the co-developer of Carriage Crossing - also confirmed the new store will be there.

"It's its own store and will have its own storefront," he said, in reference to Sephora's arrangement begun last year with JCPenney, in which Sephora started opening "stores within a store" inside JCPenney locations. That won't be the case at Carriage Crossing, where Sephora will have its own space.

"We have a fully executed lease, so it's signed and done," Gove said.

A done deal

Away from Collierville, local shoppers soon will have yet another option where they can go to browse Sephora's rows of lipstick and gloss, spritz their wrists and browse baskets of eye shadow. The cosmetics retailer this fall is opening a second store inside Wolfchase Galleria, the 1.2 million-square-foot shopping center that's celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

One mall official confirmed Sephora's intention, but said the opening date still hasn't been finalized. And while Kristine Jacobs, area director of strategic marketing for Simon Property Group, wouldn't get into specifics on what new stores are coming to Wolfchase, she did acknowledge some additions are on the way.

"Our tenant base is extremely strong, and we have many of our existing tenants going through and making plans for remodeling and expansion," she said. "So there is going to be a lot of transition throughout the year, and every change will be very pleasing to the customer.

"We're really excited about it, and we've got some exciting new retailers coming in."

European style, American ambience

Sephora, whose original concept was born in France, was the premier beauty chain in Europe when the company opened its first U.S. store in 1998. Today, its stores carry more than 250 brands of products including makeup, skin care, beauty and bath accessories.

By shopping at Sephora's Web site, www.sephora.com, customers have access to more than 12,000 products and 175 brands. Sephora has been enjoying double-digit growth in the United States for the last several years, according to company figures, and since March 2006, Sephora's store in a Nashville shopping center, The Mall at Green Hills, has been its only location in Tennessee.

"Sephora's a very high-end, nice makeup store - a national brand," said Danny Buring, managing partner at The Shopping Center Group Inc. "It's probably one of the two biggest makeup store chains."

As a measure of the store's local appeal, Downtown Memphis officials had in recent months mused privately and had begun discussions about luring the beauty chain into the Downtown space formerly occupied by Tower Records.

It was announced late last year that Peabody Place Entertainment and Retail Center was losing Tower, one of its major tenants, which occupied a prime space and had frontage on Peabody Place. The store closure came because of the Sacramento, Calif.-based music retailer's corporate bankruptcy and the company's sale to another business, which liquidated Tower's assets.

An official from the Center City Commission said Sephora was sent information on the recent developments related to the highly valued Tower Records space. But no announcement has been made yet about what will happen there.

The 'S' in SoHo

Meanwhile, Sephora - whose letter "S" logo is known as the Sephora Flame and resembles a strand of hair - apparently isn't the only high-end retailer that's targeted Wolfchase. A $135,000 building permit has been prepared for interior work inside Wolfchase Galleria by Swarovski - which could mean a new store space is being readied inside the mall.

The company, famed for its range of crystal products, has an upscale brand name, and an example of its work can be seen in the 2004 film "The Phantom of the Opera," in which a prominently featured chandelier is bedecked with Swarovski crystal.

Swarovski officials could not be reached about their Wolfchase plans by press time.

If plans for both stores come to fruition at Wolfchase, as they appear poised to do, it would be the culmination of a multimillion-dollar strategic move on the mall's part.

As of December, Simon Property Group - which owns Wolfchase - had pumped $800,000 into sprucing up the mall, money that went in large part to landscaping and other aesthetic touches.

It's likely mall officials were concerned about remaining competitive with other attractive, heavily landscaped lifestyle centers such as Collierville's.

Whatever the location, however, the new retailers that have been mentioned as imminent arrivals in Memphis certainly have a well-established customer base. Here's how a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer described the Sephora cosmetics chain in a 2004 story:

"In 1998, Sephora opened its flagship store in New York's SoHo district, and pretty much changed forever the way many Americans purchase cosmetics ... it's as if Sephora had dabbed the stodginess of shopping for prestige cosmetics with makeup remover."

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