By and  on June 10, 2005

NEW ORLEANS — The mass market beauty business is involved in a tug-of-war between major brands fighting to maintain and expand their real estate and upstart vendors yanking at buyers to give them a chance in the aisle.

A confluence of factors is causing the tussle. First, low productivity per square foot has put major brands under the microscope. Smaller, nimble marketers with new concepts see an opportunity to bring innovation to sagging sales. To top it all off, consumers have little loyalty and merely search for the next big thing.

These trends were evident at the National Association of Chain Drug Stores' Marketplace Meeting held here June 4-7. It was one of the busiest shows in years for the beauty category with 141 cosmetics and fragrances companies and 159 health and beauty suppliers exhibiting at the show, which in total hosted 4,200 attendees. In addition to stalwart players such as Revlon, L'Oreal, Coty and Procter & Gamble, there were a host of fledgling brands such as Pantina, Jesse's Girl, Flavor Factory and NYX Los Angeles, all clamoring for retail buyers' attention.

Retailers were taking note. "I really like looking for something different that not everyone has," said Marti Bentley, director of beauty for Brooks Eckerd Pharmacy.

But to add new lines, retailers have to snip space away from existing brands. Those companies are busy coming up with their own product breakthroughs to maintain — and enlarge — their retail footage.

Revlon continued to introduce chains to two major initiatives, as reported. The first is an overhaul of Almay to make it easy to shop for busy women on the go, while also nudging Almay back into skin care. The other push is for Vital Radiance, a color line targeted at mature women. One buyer was skeptical whether women would want to identify themselves with a brand targeting older women, and added that dedicating additional space for a company that was down $100,000 with her chain over last year would be hard to justify.

L'Oreal also is busy working on a new color launch that buyers describe as being "MAC-like" in regard to high pigment color.

Del Laboratories has a wealth of innovations of its own, including a big push into lip under the Sally Hansen brand. Sally Hansen also continues to build its Airbrush franchise and is gearing up to introduced New & Improved Airbrush Legs, a waterproof formula. "Sally Hansen is no longer just a nail care company," said Harvey Alstodt, president of global business of Del Labs. "It's an entire cosmetics franchise."

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