Beauty Store Business magazine - January, 2020

Retailer Ron Robinson Shares Beauty Curation Secrets at L.A. Mart Roundtable

Beauty Store Business attended L.A.Mart's Roundtable Discussion on October 16, featuring Ron Robinson and his executive team from his eponymous legendary L.A. retail store.

With over four decades of accomplishment Ron Robinson himself is revered as an innovator, visionary and renaissance man and is known as the original L.A. independent retailer to create multi-category stores combining fashion, kids, beauty, gift and overall lifestyle products all under one roof.

After working directly for Fred Segal as a salesman, buyer and then vice president for nearly a decade, Robinson took his knowledge and expertise to build on the traditions he had learned, as well as make some of his own. In 1978, Ron Robinson Inc. opened its doors at Fred Segal on Melrose Avenue, and five years later Robinson expanded with an in-store beauty boutique and brand named Apothia. Both have grown exponentially ever since—and Robinson added a flagship store in Santa Monica, California. Robinson is well-known to have helped launch many luxury beauty brands that went on to great success (i.e., Hard Candy, Kiehl's, Osea--to name a few), as well as numerous fashion brands.

A crowd of more than 150 gathered as Ron Robinson, Stacy Robinson (vice president of operations) and Karen Meena (vice president of buying), shared entertaining anecdotes, helpful information and guidance on how to maintain a thriving retail business. The audience, made up mostly of buyers, retailers and vendors, attentively listened to the history, success stories and philosophies of the uber-successful Ron Robinson Inc., which has flourished for more than 41 years as arguably the most successful independent retail establishment in Southern California.

“We were elated to have Ron, Stacy and Karen here to lead this very important and topical seminar. He has decades of invaluable retailer information to share and we were so glad that he took the time to support the L.A. Mart and their customers in this way,” said Frank Joens, senior vice president and general manager, L.A. Mart. “He is such a great influence and has been so very supportive of the L.A. Mart that it was our pleasure to be able to shine the spotlight and give him and his team a platform to share their vast knowledge of how to be the best of the best in retail.”

Frank Joens acted as master of ceremonies and Karen Alweil, owner of the successful national rep agency Karen Alweil Studio, performed as moderator for this round table discussion and question and answer seminar. Alweil, having worked with Ron Robinson for decades, offered insight and laid out many of the challenges retailers face today, including topics such as weathering tough economic times, formulas for successful buying, practical and successful operational practices, trade-show travel challenges, competing with online buying, the importance of store events and advice for new and struggling stores. Following the round table portion of the program, Ron and his team answered multiple questions from the audience.

When the store first opened, Robinson explained during the roundtable, he decided to carry luxury-type beauty products that were at the time only available in department stores, if anywhere at all. More than 40 years later and in a much more competitive environment, Robinson said that it helps to not only be a purveyor of beauty brands, but to also have his own successful brand Apothia, which includes signature fragrances, candles and a limited assortment of personal care products distributed in the U.S. and internationally. In terms of beauty curation, Karen Meena stated that they go to great lengths to find beauty products that are truly extraordinary, effective and unique. "It's not that different than the criteria we use for all of our buying," she said. "We look for innovation, always try to be first and carry products we personally love."

“The honor to be able to address others in the industry at this event was very special. I have visited and shopped the L.A. Mart for 30 years. Our first stop each season are at the showrooms in Los Angeles and we find a great deal of product for our season mix there. The offer to be able to speak along with the rest of our executive team, was sensational. What an amazing turnout from representatives to producers to retailers, it was great to be able to share our stories and ideas,” said Robinson, after the roundtable concluded.

Photo (L to R): VP of Buying, Karen Meena; VP of Operations, Stacy Robinson; Founder and President, Ron Robinson