TORONTO — Shoppers Drug Mart’s third Murale specialty beauty store that opened here just before the Labor Day weekend incorporates all the refinements suggested by management’s experience with the two pilot outlets launched last fall.
At 6,000 square feet, the Toronto store is slightly smaller than the Murale stores in Ottawa and Montreal that debuted last year. Yet, it actually packs in more brands (over 200), and with minimal internal barriers, the traffic flow is likely to be easier.
Four more Murale units are to be opened this fall — two in Calgary, Alberta, and one each in Ottawa and Vancouver, British Columbia.
SDM president and chief executive officer Jürgen Schreiber says he is keen to expand Murale as quickly as the right locations present themselves, but acknowledges that the size of the Canadian market for such a specialty chain poses its own limitations.
Speaking at the Toronto store’s preview, James Hargreaves, SDM’s vice president of construction, noted how quickly the Murale concept came to fruition.
“One and a half years ago Jürgen Schreiber said to me, ‘I want you to create the best beauty store in the world,’ ” he said. “I thought Jürgen was just trying to get my full attention. But then, as we started work, I found he really meant it.”
In its work with Burdiflek, the company’s design consultants, SDM’s objective was to offer the customer a setting embodying the elegance that complements the products on sale, Hargreaves noted. “We have used upscale materials throughout, from the terrazzo floors and glazed partitions to the signature white and lavender color scheme,” he said. “In fact, we have created a unique environment that is not comparable to anything being done anywhere else in the world.”
Commenting on the specifics of the store design, Hargreaves pointed out that the unit’s open selling spaces are customer-friendly, inviting shoppers to discover things on their own.
“Our beauty masters are there to help them when required, but we did not want the customer experience to be transaction-based,” he said.
Murale president Shelley Rozenwald noted her belief that “Jürgen’s vision of 18 months ago has been achieved.”
She paid tribute to the members of the team that had made it all happen, including Michele Slepekis, vice president of marketing, branding and creative, and Kevin Farrell, SDM’s senior director of store concepts, who assisted with the merchandising of the new Murale unit.
Rozenwald repeated the mantra she had used at the opening of the first store, which she had said was aimed at helping the customer find her own beautiful.
“Throughout the planning of the Toronto outlet, as in the case of the previous two, we always asked ourselves when it came to a decision about what was to be done, ‘Does it help the customer?’ The answer dictated our action,” she said.
In the Toronto store, as in the stores in Ottawa and Montreal, particular attention has been paid to the lighting.
“The lighting is fantastic for makeup application, and we have no walls except the brands around the perimeter,” Rozenwald remarked.
Also featured in displays, tags, bags and walls are the lighthearted fashion sketches and idiosyncratic, grafitti-like typography by illustrator Lauren Tamaki that first appeared in Ottawa.
The new unit features all the prestigious brands — including Natura Bissé, Cargo, Gosh, Darphin, Clarins, Sensation, Chocolat Paris and Smashbox — that were evident in the first two stores. There are also newcomers to the Murale selection, including dr.brandt, June Jacobs Spa Collection, Cover FX, Bare Minerals, Yves Saint Laurent Top Secrets Flash Radiance, 3 Lab and Etat Libre d’Orange.
As in the original stores, a physically small but full-line dispensary serves customers for all their pharmaceutical needs. Though the duty pharmacist will often provide service and advice in consultation with the store’s aestheticians, the pharmacy services are not restricted to dermatological issues. The experience with the Ottawa and Montreal stores has been that the advice resulting from the collaboration of the two specialties is particularly valued by customers.
Murale designates the people who staff its skin care and fragrance departments as “beauty masters” rather than making reference in their titles to a sales function, and that distinction is deliberate.
Rozenwald emphasized that the primary function of the beauty masters is to help the customer make the right decision for her (or him) individually, not just to make a sale.
Services are an important part of the offering. Murale beauty masters offer for a fee both full and mini makeup lessons, as well as bridal makeup. Aestheticians offer more specialized advice on skin care issues.
The store is equipped with private spaces — “cabines,” in the language of cosmeticians — for consultation with the specialists.