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Branding Bigelow

Limited Brands will decide the fate of its Bigelow beauty and personal care retail store concept this month, following two years of test driving a specialty store at Easton Town Center in Columbus, Ohio. It will either add more locations, or just continue to sell the beauty goods collection at select Bath & Body Works, Victoria's Secret and Henri Bendel stores, says a Limited spokesman.

But if the opinion of Easton Town Center's owner matters at all, the Bigelow stores, based on the old Greenwich Village apothecary C. O. Bigelow, will pop up in more locations. “Bigelow has been successful beyond our expectations,” says Yaromir Steiner, president of Steiner + Associates, which owns the 1.2-million-square-foot center. He says Bigelow fills a void by providing healthy beauty products for women and men over 55. “We love this store, and our customers love it,” says Steiner. “It's unique.”

Columbus-based Limited bought the Bigelow name from C.O. Bigelow and hired its president, Ira Ginsberg, to develop a new cosmetic and personal care line. The 166-year-old apothecary was known for selling natural body products, long before “natural” became a buzzword. Its collection ranges from lip balms to body creams to perfume oils. Third-party products are sold at the store, as well.

According to Lois Huff, Retail Forward senior vice president and manager, Limited is doing what it does best: buying brand names and developing products around their reputations.That strategy of developing brands differs from, say, Gap, which plays off its own brand name in creating new concepts — Gap Kids, Baby Gap, Gap Maternity.

With its Express, Victoria Secret's, The White Barn Candle Co. and Henri Bendel units standing the test of time, Limited's strategy has been mostly successful. It's exercising caution these days after Aura Science, a 2000 retail store venture with Japan-based Intimate Beauty Corp./Shiseido, folded after two years.

Limited tested its Henri Bendel and Aura Science stores at Easton Town Center too, Steiner says. “If a concept works in New York or Rodeo Drive that doesn't mean it will work in Dallas,” he says. “But if it works in Columbus, there's a good chance it will work in Middle America.” So far, Henri Bendel is working. Soon there will be a verdict on Bigelow.

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