Georgette Growth Remains Real

It’s a new Georgette Klinger.

ggrEvery aspect of the 58-year-old salon and spa chain’s operations — from salon interiors to product packaging — has been overhauled. It will all come together in a soft opening Aug. 1 at the Short Hills Mall in New Jersey. A grand opening is set for September.

The 3,500-square-foot salon and spa, designed by New York’s James Harb Architects, is the first Klinger facility to be opened since The Pyle Group, a Madison, Wis.-based financial services and investment company, acquired the organization in July 1998.

Pyle Group executives declined to provide a sales projection. But industry sources estimate that the Short Hills facility could do in excess of $2 million during its first year of operation.

According to Thomas Pyle, chairman of both The Pyle Group and Georgette Klinger, the Short Hills facility is intended to serve as a model for the chain’s existing and future salons.

Starting in September, the revamped design will be phased into the other eight Georgette Klinger locations in the U.S.: two in Manhattan and one each in Beverly Hills and Costa Mesa, Calif.; Chicago; Dallas; Washington, and Palm Beach, Fla.

The updating is an attempt to widen Klinger’s customer base, said Pyle, who runs the business with Judith Pyle, his wife and business partner, who is vice chairman of both firms. The Pyles’ business partner, Marv Siegert, is president of the Pyle Group and a third owner of the chain.

“These changes don’t mean that the company is trying to appeal only to a younger consumer,” insists Judith Pyle, who said that 35-to-50-year-olds make up the largest part of the firm’s client roster. “We serve everyone from teenagers to grandmothers. Miss Klinger and her daughter Kathryn created a gracious tone — it just needs to be updated a little.”

In formulating the changes, the Pyles drew on their backgrounds in the beauty business. Thomas Pyle has held management positions at Clairol and Procter & Gamble, while Judith Pyle has served as vice president of worldwide marketing for Elizabeth Arden, director of marketing for Estee Lauder and director of marketing for Charlie Fragrance and Cosmetics at Revlon.

To round out the Georgette Klinger management team, the Pyles hired William H. Willis as president and chief executive officer and Eileen Paley as senior vice president of marketing and product development. Willis was president of two international divisions of Reader’s Digest, and Paley has held senior marketing and product development positions at Revlon, Elizabeth Arden and Estee Lauder.

More than a year of research went into the new concept. The team’s first move was to study existing salons, which focus on skin care, but also offer hairstyling, makeup, massage, manicures and pedicures. Next, several months were given over to soliciting comments from current clients.

One of the first things to be changed? The salons’ pale green, white and gray color scheme. “It was somewhat out of date,” acknowledges Judith Pyle. “We decided to update the salon look by using pale blush pink, with touches of white and gray.” That color scheme will differ only in the reception areas, which will be muted yellow and soft gray.

The second change is in size: The facility is about half the size of Klinger’s largest locations. “From speaking to consumers, we learned that smaller is, indeed, better,” said Judith Pyle. “As a result, our new salons will be smaller.”

Proving that size doesn’t matter — that much — was a point of pride with the team, who made sure that every inch of the Short Hills facility was utilized.

Clients enter the salon through a retail area, where they can meet with a skin care adviser for product information. Just past the retail area lies the reception area, and off that space are private rooms for the salon’s skin care consultants. After changing in the locker rooms, clients enter a circular sitting room, a corner of which houses the product dispensary.

Limited space wasn’t the only reason for placing the dispensary squarely in clients’ line of vision: “We made the dispensary visible because we believe it gives clients confidence to see what’s going on there,” said Judith Pyle.

Further conserving space, most of the Short Hills treatment rooms do double duty — facial rooms double as massage areas, for instance. And there’s another benefit: “Not only does it save space, it keeps clients having multiple services from traipsing all over the place,” Paley said.

In addition to creating more intimate spaces, the team is ramping up customer service and paying closer attention to small details. “For instance, we’ve commissioned specially designed jewelry trays for the lockers, and we’ll bring products into the treatment rooms on silver trays as they’re needed,” Paley said.

To track client response to the changes, the team has installed a new software system to track clients’ appointments, service history and retail records. Employees are currently enrolled in updated training programs, focusing on retail and explaining how to create “the personal touch” for clients.

There’s also change happening in Klinger’s management offices, as the team puts the finishing touches on a marketing plan that includes direct mail and magazine and newspaper advertising. While Willis declined to comment on the proposed promotion budget, he noted that the effort will extend to cities where Klinger doesn’t currently operate salons.

Is the groundwork being laid for opening more locations?

Absolutely, said Thomas Pyle, who said that at least 20 salons will eventually be in operation. “I hope we’ll do even more than that,” Pyle said.”In our expansion plans, we’re attracted to strong shopping areas and malls. The future is probably going to be upscale shopping centers.”

To further boost customer awareness and service, the company is also adding to its product line and revamping the packaging. According to Thomas Pyle, the products are a natural extension of the group’s in-salon services, adding that most Klinger salons do at least 30 percent of their overall business in product sales. He declined to give overall sales revenues for the chain or overall product sales numbers.

While the company won’t immediately introduce new products — its last launches were Virtual Perfection Cream, a facial moisturizer, in 1998 and extensions to that collection earlier this year — it has repackaged everything. Gray cardstock is being replaced by white cardstock and pastel accents, with the Klinger name and the chain’s signature lily of the valley logo stamped in silvery gray.

Despite the firm’s recent attention to its product line, there are no plans to expand its reach beyond the Klinger chain, said Paley.

Despite the tinkering the Pyle team is doing with the Klinger chain, the company has come a long way since Georgette Klinger founded her first namesake salon in 1941, said Thomas Pyle. “It’s an amazing brand name, and we’re proud to be a part of it,” he said.

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