NEW YORK -- For the last 20 years, retailers and some of their vendors have relied on blockbusters -- those bargain-priced boxes of beauty products -- as a surefire way of sparking Christmas business. But this past year, the fuse got...
NEW YORK -- For the last 20 years, retailers and some of their vendors have relied on blockbusters -- those bargain-priced boxes of beauty products -- as a surefire way of sparking Christmas business. But this past year, the fuse got damp.
Although the blockbusters appear to have been a virtual sellout -- as in years past -- it took longer in December to sell through the beauty kits. That was true even for Estee Lauder, which had pioneered the concept in 1971 with the introduction of an eye color collection for $8.50.
In addition, Elizabeth Arden, Lauder's major competitor in the annual holiday blockbuster wars, was forced to mark down some of its $29.50 kits by $10 to sell out stocks.
This past season, Arden offered two blockbusters -- one keyed on its
four-year-old Red Door fragrance, the other featuring the Sunflowers scent that had been launched in the spring.
Arden's blockbuster business showed a single-digit increase, but it wasn't easy to achieve, said Mark Loomis, vice president of retail marketing at Arden.
The two kits, which went on counter Nov. 1, were equally priced, with an original price tag of $29.50 with a $15 qualifying purchase, but the Sunflowers version took off "like a rocket ship," while Red Door sputtered, Loomis said. Both sets had a claimed value of $435.
Unfortunately for Arden, the slower-moving model made up three quarters of the blockbuster assortment.
"If we had to do it over again, we certainly would have done a lot more Sunflowers," Loomis said.
In prior years, Arden had sold out by Dec. 10. Last season, executives estimated that a sellout would not occur until Christmas, so the company decided to take the markdown, sparking a sell-through by Dec. 18.
"Customers were buying five and 10 of them," Loomis said. "At Macy's Herald Square in New York, we went from selling 20 a day to 100 a day."
The sluggishness appears to have been caused by heightened competition from a proliferation of new or improved promotional vehicles on fragrance bars -- more sharply priced gift and value sets and the growing popularity of collections of fragrance miniatures.No one, however, is suggesting eliminating or even curtailing the Christmas blockbuster. It has become a promotional mainstay that can generate 15 to 20 percent of a brand's key November and December business. While Lauder executives declined to discuss volume, sources estimate that blockbusters with accompanying qualifying purchases could account for $45 million at retail of the market leader's holiday volume.
"For us it has been a big business," Loomis said. "It made November look like December."
Some retailers have suggested that the product mix -- normally consisting of color, treatment and fragrance products -- needs some innovative updating.
"We need a new catch -- a slightly different assortment to make the customer say, 'Wow,"' said Patty Payne, vice president of cosmetics at the Federated Merchandising division of Federated Department Stores. "I have a suspicion that the customer sees the same assortment every year and she has grown complacent."
She called on manufacturers to "be creative and take the assortment to the next level with new and unique items and products."
In addition to Lauder and Arden, blockbusters were also marketed last season by Princess Marcella Borghese and Ultima II.
While noting that the blockbusters attract new customers as well as pump up volume, Payne pointed out, "They all came out of the gate slowly last year but virtually sold through by Christmas."
Allen Burke, divisional merchandise manager at Dayton's, Hudson's and Marshall Field's, agreed.
"They were kind of a struggle this year," he said.
While noting that "it would help if prices stopped going up," Burke pointed out that the consumer has become relentless in demanding better value.
"The time has really come for fresh offerings," he said. Muriel Gonzalez, executive vice president of marketing at Estee Lauder USA, said the company's primary blockbuster -- a $150 value priced at $32.50 with a qualifying purchase out of the Lauder line -- sold through almost entirely by Christmas, which was later than last year.
"We held our dollar volume, but sold through more slowly," she said.
Last year, Lauder had "spottily" sold out between Dec. 14 and 18.Although Lauder's primary blockbuster was more sluggish this year, the company had better luck with newer offerings. One new promotional set, called The Golden Five, offered a small gold-colored atomizer and purse with five fragrances for $20. It was marketed in 60 markets with TV support in 10, and "it sold out quickly," Gonzalez said.
Lauder also did a more luxurious version of its blockbuster, priced at $45 with a value of $285, for specialty stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and I. Magnin.
"It sold through 100 percent," said Gonzalez, "but even that blockbuster didn't sell out as quickly as we anticipated."
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)