Make us your home page

Kiehl's makes inroads into elusive male cosmetics market

Among the makeover mirrors and sales people flashing fragrance spritzers, a different kind of boutique has set up shop in Dillard's cosmetics department in Brandon.

A human skeleton named Mr. Bones beckons the curious. Antique microscopes, pharmacy compounding tools and apothecary jars suggest something medicinal. A model stunt plane and a counter manager wearing a Harley-Davidson motorcycle pin hints that this place is not about the feminine mystique.

It's Kiehl's, a fast growing, unisex skin and hair care brand that's shaking up the staid world of luxury cosmetics.

"We're for the whole family: women, men, babies, even your horse and canine friends," said Chris Salgardo, president of Kiehl's USA (pronounced "keels"), a L'Oreal growth vehicle racking up double-digit sales gains despite a deep recession.

While 70 percent of customers are women, in New York and Los Angeles almost half are men.

That's unheard of in an industry where marketers confessed to making up the bogus "metrosexual" trend a few years ago to tap into the male market. Now they see Kiehl's as their best chance to get more men buying high end hair and skin care treatments.

"We keep it simple," Salgardo said. "No nonsense packaging. Free samples that eat up most of our ad budget. We let the products sell themselves."

Kiehl's grab-what-you-want counter contrasts with rivals who keep their elegantly packaged products locked under glass until a salesperson arrives.

Spurning most beauty products and stocking only eight of the 122 fragrances in its files, Kiehl's big sellers are skin moisturizers, shave and sun protection cremes, shampoos, rinses and a treatment for diaper rash. Names are practical: Dry Run Foot Creme, Razor Bump Relief, Baby Face and Body Wash and Epidermal Microabrasion cream. Pet shampoos include "spray and play" tonic that neutralizes doggy smell with no bath.

Kiehl's sells in its own 30 stores, online and locally at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. But now Dillard's signed to put 36 boutiques in department stores. The first local one officially opens in Westfield Brandon on Thursday with another coming to Westfield Countryside.

Some experts see Kiehl's as the next big thing in selling high-end cosmetics since Sephora, a French chain owned by Louis Vuitton LVMH that lets customers grab and try on a wide variety of lesser known luxury cosmetics on their own.

"Kiehl's changes the paradigm with a health and wellness approach that demystifies cosmetics," said Wendy Liebmann, chef executive of WSL Strategic Retail, a New York research firm. "There's no intimidating hocus-pocus. It feels authentic and fun."

The boutique is decked out to celebrate Kiehl's 1851 origin as an apothecary in New York's East Village and to create a pharmacy backdrop. There's no animal testing or aerosols. Men's products are fragrance free.

To help men shed reticence, the chain weaves in its history. Aaron Morris, a pharmacologist and pilot-race car driver who took over in the 1960s, parked his vintage Harley-Davidson collection and Lamborghini in the store to occupy husbands as their wives shopped. Free samples got them trying products, some of them made for athletes

Then came macho sponsorships: a Mount Everest expedition, endurance marathons and a parade of celebrity customers at charity fundraisers. From Andy Warhol, the lineup extends to Hollywood types like Julianne Moore, William H. Macy and Brad Pitt to artist Jeff Koons and rocker Fred Durst.

L'Oreal, the French cosmetics giant that makes everything from Maybelline to Lancome, bought Kiehl's in 2000. Since then, sales quadrupled, surging past $200 million in 2009.

Salgardo just returned from Kiehl's 11-day charity event-motorcycle run up the Pacific Coast on his own Harley.

"At the end of the day, I reminded riders to man up with our Midnight Recovery Concentrate to get that motorcycle wind damage off their faces."

Reach Mark Albright at or (727) 893-8252.

Kiehl's makes inroads into elusive male cosmetics market 08/16/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 18, 2010 11:58am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
  2. Eat 3-course meals for $35 at these 100 restaurants for Orlando's Magical Dining Month

    Food & Dining

    In the early 1900s, hotels offered "table d'hote" or "prix fixe" menus as a form of loss leader. Hotels didn't necessarily make money on these lower-priced, multi-course meals, often served at communal tables, but they made up for it on the booze. Prohibition may have contributed to a gradual shift toward a la carte …

    Bulla Gastrobar serves a variety of Spanish and Portuguese dishes.
  3. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman sells house for $3 million to new player

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman's multi-million Davis Islands home is staying in the Lightning family. Yzerman sold his 6,265-square-foot house Monday to new defenseman Dan Girardi for $3 million.

    The Davis Islands home of Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman sold for $3 million Monday to Lightning defenseman Dan Girardi. | [Courtesy of Hi Res Media]
  4. Trigaux: As Florida seeks top 10 status as best business state, red flag rises on workforce


    In the eternal quest to appeal more to business than other states, Florida's managed to haul itself out of some pretty mediocre years. After scoring an impressive 8 among 50 states way back in 2007, Florida suffered horribly during and immediately after the recession. Its rank sank as low as No. 30 only four years ago, …

    Florida's trying to make strides in preparing its high school and college graduates for the rapidly changing skill sets of today's workforce. But the latest CNBC ranking of the best and worst states for business gave Florida poor marks for education, ranking No. 40 (tied with South Carolina for education) among the 50 states. Still, Florida ranked No. 12 overall in the best business states annual ranking. [Alan Berner/Seattle Times]
  5. For the first time in Florida, a white person is set to be executed for killing a black person.

    State Roundup

    GAINESVILLE — For the first time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man Thursday for killing a black person — and it plans to do so with the help of a drug that has never been used before in any U.S. execution.

    This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Mark Asay. If his final appeals are denied, Asay is to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Thursday. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated, premeditated murders in Jacksonville in 1987.  [Florida Department of Corrections via AP]