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Makeup guru Bobbi Brown's new chapter: Get customers back in department stores

  • Bobbi Brown, newly appointed creative consultant at Lord & Taylor, launches new creative pop-up shop.
  • The founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics left her company late last year.
  • Even with pressure from online shopping, Brown believes retailers should not abandon physical stores.

Bobbi Brown, who left her namesake cosmetics company late last year, is taking on a new challenge that's been baffling a retail industry ravaged by e-commerce: how to create compelling reasons to bring shoppers back to brick-and-mortar stores.

The founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics was appointed creative consultant at Lord & Taylor this week, kicking off the partnership with a concept store-within-a-store called justBOBBI.

"It's basically a creative pop-up shop that really talks more about lifestyle. There's beauty in there. There's beauty tools. There's great health supplements," Brown told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday.

"We are all buying online. There's no question," Brown acknowledged. But justBOBBI is a "way to bring people into the store," she said.

Retailers have to be creative "in order to bring the customer back," she said, hoping to be that catalyst at Lord & Taylor. "Right now, it's on LordandTaylor.com and we're in five stores. And there are plans for growth and new things."

Even with the pressure from online shopping, Brown believes retailers should not abandon physical stores.

"People still want to touch and feel things," she said. "We need talented people hanging around to give a reason for people to come into a store."

Makeup artist Bobbi Brown (L) attends the Jenny Packham fashion show during September 2016 New York Fashion Week.
Michael Stewart | WireImage | Getty Images
Makeup artist Bobbi Brown (L) attends the Jenny Packham fashion show during September 2016 New York Fashion Week.

Brown started her cosmetics company in 1991. Estee Lauder Cos. bought the brand in 1995. She left Bobbi Brown Cosmetics in December after 25 years.

"I'm not the first founder that has left a company. There's Calvin Klein. There's Donna Karan," she told CNBC. "I love the company. I love the company I created. I love the products. I still these products I love."

"But now I have an open slate" and a new challenge at Lord & Taylor, she said.

Brown, who built a global brand that started with selling lipsticks shipped in manila envelopes, said entrepreneurs could benefit from guidance she got from Leonard Lauder, the 84-year-old chairman emeritus of Estee Lauder.

"As Leonard Lauder once told me, 'never ask for permission, beg for forgiveness.' That was great advice," she said.

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