Bluemercury Blossoms as Other Firms Wither

Beauty boutique Bluemercury founder Marla Malcolm Beck has slowly and steadily built a chain of 28 stores throughout the country by relying on the best advice she ever received - DROOM, or don't run out of money.

Washington Post Staff Writer Ylan Q. Mui interviews the entrepreneur in her profile piece Beauty and the Biz in today's Business section.

Beck said she hopes to take advantage of increased vacancies and slipping rents in many of the chain's target markets as other companies shutter stores and slow expansion plans. She believes that her affluent customers -- the average shopper is a 38-year-old woman with $130,000 in annual income -- are not as vulnerable to the downturn as most. And, adhering to DROOM, she shored up capital before the current credit crunch, allowing Bluemercury to flourish.

Only about two-thirds of start-ups last for two years and fewer than half make it to the four-year mark. Of more than 102,000 retail companies established in 1996, only 68 had at least $50 million in sales six years later.

But Beck dispensed with several retailing traditions. While many retailers rely on part-timers, 90 percent of her staff works full time. She had personally interviewed each of the 300 employees until December, when she scaled back her involvement in hiring because the company had grown so large. Beck has set up a training center at the Bluemercury in Princeton, N.J., for store managers and assistant managers, and a group of staffers travels the country to make sure employees are knowledgeable about products and keep in touch with company culture.

By Sharon McLoone |  August 4, 2008; 11:39 AM ET Profiles in Entrepreneurship
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