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It used to be that scoring high-end health and beauty products in Prague meant hefty shipping fees or begging family and friends visiting from abroad to deilver the goods. But a recent invasion of brands like Bobby Brown, MAC, Aesop, and Sisley have paved the way for the next big launch: In May, “New York’s pharmacy” Kiehl’s, a cult favorite the world over, opened shop at Nový Smíchov. The store transplants the old-fasioned apothecary style and customer-centered tradition of its New York cousin – lots of free samples included – with plenty of local appeal, says Dominika Hartova, Brand Manager of Kiehl’s, who recently spoke to us about the brand’s debut in the Czech Republic.
When a popular brand from abroad hits the Czech market, questions normally revolve around two very distinct areas; product and pricing, the latter creating contempt towards brands that jack prices through the roof. L’Oreal, the parent company of Kiehl’s, has apparently learned from the backlash, “Our prices are more or less the same as in the rest of Europe so you don’t have to shop anymore when you go abroad,” she says.
Unlike many new store launches in Prague, where style takes precedence over substance, Kiehl’s seems set to have gotten it right. The company has brought in over 90% of its product line, carrying the top 10 international favorites for both men and women, along with their highly successful dermatologist solutions. “[Most of our customers are] Czech, but there quite a large number are foreigners…which is much different from those who buy our other brands,” Ms. Hartova says.
Another factor that makes Kiehl’s stand out is its men’s grooming range; in New York and Los Angeles men make up over half of the clientele.
Aside from being able to buy the company’s iconic lip balm, no postage or airfare required, it may be the ‘Kiehl’s touch’ as Ms. Hartova calls it, that will appeal most to expats who have grown weary of Czech customer service. Each new customer gets a free 20-minute consultation by beauty technicians. “We do a a healthy skin check with ‘tabs’, which measure the balance of oils and waters in the skin,” says Ms. Hartova. Product recommendations are made based on the test. The shop is English-friendly and touching, trying, and sampling is encouraged.
While this hands-on, forward-thinking approach may be revolutionary to Prague, it’s a tradition Kiehl’s has always held. Founded in 1851 as a single homeopathic pharmacy in New York’s East Village, it has gained a huge worldwide following for its basic packaging, unorthdox marketing approach (the company purports to give away 12 million samples a year) and signature products like Blue Astringent, Creme de Corps, and Original Musk Oil, which remain customer favorites today.
Those selling points aside, I asked Ms. Hartova what makes Kiehl’s so different from other competitors on the Czech market that tout bio products. Her answer, “I think that it’s really the knowledge and the tradition which started when the first store was opened in 1851. Combine this with the best ingredients and the beauty advisors…and you see the difference.”
The day of my visit was no exception; I got the consultation from a lab-coated, English-speaking staffer with no obligation to buy. Though let’s be honest, if you are spending 1,000 CZK on a cream you want to know how to get the most for your money. The many serums and Calendula Herbal Extact toner won me over, whilse the gel-based products as well as the BB Cream were my least favorite. The overall feeling in the store was cheerful and if it wasn’t for another appointment I surely would have stayed longer.
The brand is already so confident of its allure that fans may be able to expect more shops to open in the future.
Have you been able to find your favorite products from home in Prague?