November 21, 2016 - Sephora and Ulta aren't the only games in town when it comes to specialty beauty retail. Cos Bar, a true luxury beauty outpost founded in Aspen, CO, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. And while it some may consider 40 to be middle age, Cos Bar isn't slowing down. In fact, by some standards, this beauty retailer that promises "beauty elevated" is just getting warmed up.
Selling a curated assortment of ultra high-end makeup, skin care, fragrances and bath and body products for women and men such as like Tom Ford, La Prairie, Chanel, Sisley-Paris, Dior, Cle de Peau, Oribe, Laura Mercier, Giorgio Armani, and YSL Beaute, Cos Bar is already is already having a critical year.
For starters, Cos Bar recently took in a major financial investment from parent company Tengram (which owns brands like Laura Geller, Nest and Algenist in its portfolio too). In addition, Cos Bar expanded its leadership team by hiring four marketing heads and naming David Olsen, formerly of Net-a-Porter, as its CEO.
This month, it will open new flagship Southern California location in Brentwood, marking the start of a major expansion plan that includes remodeling existing stores and opening 36 new stores over the next five years. The new doors will join 14 other stores in Carmel, CA; Charleston, SC; Edwards and Vail, CO; Wailea, HI; The Woodlands, TX; Edina, MN; Highland Park, IL; La Jolla, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, CA; Santa Fe, NM and Scottsdale.
Happi recently interviewed Lily Garfield, founder/owner and president, and Olsen about Cos Bar's past and its plans for the future and how the beauty retail scene has changed during the past four decades.
Happi: So, this year marks a major milestone for Cos Bar. As the founder, what does this mean to you personally and professionally?
Garfield: We are celebrating our 40th anniversary of the Aspen Cos Bar opening this year which is a dream come true! I had worked in the beauty industry in New York and knew that women needed something better and more convenient. Opening up a Cos Bar in the heart of New York City last year was a monumental moment for the brand as well as my career in the beauty industry.
Happi: Brand/product wise, how has beauty/skin care changed over time since you opened your first door in the late 1970s?
Garfield: In the past few decades new brands have emerged and the iconic brands we all know and love have evolved with the ever-changing needs of consumers and trends. At Cos Bar, we have been successful in keeping up with the times and trends while also staying true to our ways with excellent customer service and top beauty brands catering to each and every loyal customer.
Happi: How has the beauty retail scene changed since then too?
Garfield: Forty years ago, all you had were department stores or drug stores; you had certain brands in drug stores and luxe brands at department stores. There weren't many niche beauty focused retailers and Cos Bar was created to meet this need within the marketplace.
Happi: Can you share with us more about the deal with Tengram—what will it mean for the company this year and moving forward?
Olsen: Tengram Capital Partners took a stake in Cos Bar in December of last year. This partnership has allowed the brand to grow and evolve at a steady and successful rate. With new store openings, additional digital assets and programming as well as larger scale partnerships and expansion Tengram will be a key player in these milestone moments for Cos Bar.
Happi: Opening 36 stores in five years is an ambitious plan. Why so fast now? What are the major challenges this will entail?
Garfield:It was never my intention to expand when I was starting out 40 years ago. However, there was customer demand for our business and, in response, we kept exploring new areas and methods to reach our customer. Olsen: We know there are larger markets where this luxury consumer exists. We're using huge amounts of data science to understand which locations will be productive for us and meet our customers' needs.
Happi: What makes Cos Bar different than other retailers now in the space—like Sephora or Ulta?
Garfield: At the core, Cos Bar is all about service. We pride ourselves on our friendly and expertly trained staff, and the personal relationships we build with all of our clients. All of the brands are curated to offer only the best of the best and are tailored based on each location/market, and ultimately tailored for each customer. Another main difference from a Sephora or Ulta is that we aren't prestige, we are luxury.
Happi: How has the online beauty retail space impacted your operations?
Olsen: Our expansion strategy includes a large focus on omnichannel, with plans to add at least one warehouse, click-and-collect services and next-day delivery.
Happi: Can you share with us the company's annual sales or provide us with another indicator of growth?
Olsen: The brand plans to quadruple sales in three years with 120% year-over-year e-commerce growth predicted. In addition to physical retail, growing the brand's omnichannel destination at cosbar.com is a focus. We are focusing on expanding our social media presence and have rolled out a loyalty program in-stores that will launch online later this month.