By  on February 11, 2005

NEW YORK — Duane Reade’s proprietary brand, Apt. 5, is moving into new retail real estate.

This month, the Manhattan-based drugstore chain will offer its own brand of makeup brushes and grooming implements under the Apt. 5 logo. The tools join the 150 other product categories ranging from color cosmetics to hair care sold exclusively at Duane Reade’s 230-plus stores. Industry sources estimate the entire franchise has sales approaching $5 million.

“These two categories are logical extensions to Apt. 5,” said Karen Durham, consultant to Duane Reade. “The Apt. 5 customer wants high-quality products,” she added, noting that many Duane Reade customers also frequent upscale department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman.

With that in mind, the makeup brushes are created for specific purposes. For example, natural hair is used in some brushes, while synthetic bristles are incorporated in others based on what the brush is designed to do.

The brush collection ranges from an eyeliner brush priced at $3.99 to a powder brush retailing for $14.99. According to Durham, one of the most creative products is the Eye-Brush set that has one handle with removable brushes for applications ranging from an eye shadow sponge to a lipstick brush. “You can do it all with one brush, which is good for travel or use in an office,” she explained.

The collection features 21 items — many of which have been hard to find in mass outlets. The products are modeled on high-end implements sold for much more at specialty stores, said Durham. A few examples include a double-ended cuticle pusher, a professional callus shaver and even a skin care tool for cleaning pores. Prices range from $2.95 for cute hologram nail files to $14.95 for professional toenail nippers.

Although Apt. 5 cosmetics are merchandised on illuminated ends of aisle displays, Durham said the implements and brushes will be located within the appropriate departments. “That’s how people shop these categories,” she said. “But Apt. 5 has a loyal following so they’ll appreciate seeing the brand in other areas.”

Rather than eliminate national brands, Duane Reade is merely reallocating space within planograms to accommodate the Apt. 5 introductions.Apt. 5 was introduced in July 2002 as a color line and extended into hair care in 2004. While many retailers have attempted to create exclusive brands with little success, Duane Reade has found a following for its homegrown line. “They have done what many others can’t — turn it into a truly marketed brand name. Also  consumers are willing to try new things,” said one competitor at a drug chain.

One of the challenges of private label has been when retailers try to become marketers. “It isn’t so easy on the other side,” said the buyer. Apt. 5 even has its own Web site to further hammer home the “brand” appeal.

One of the only other successful proprietary color launches has been Target’s Sonia Kashuk. Many other retailers are attempting to present exclusive brands without having to create them from scratch, such as IsaDora at Walgreens and Lumene at CVS.

Duane Reade is adapting several other twists to differentiate its stores from the growing competition in the metropolitan New York market, including adding Chock Full o’Nuts cafes and upscale skin care boutiques.

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