By  on April 1, 2005

PRINCETON, N.J. — At a six-month-old Whole Foods Market here, shoppers can find all of their beauty needs in one location. Not only can they buy freshly baked organic breads, they can procure all-natural cosmetics and hair care in a large beauty care department located in the center of the store.

Over the past few years, health and beauty has become a bigger part of the 169-store Whole Foods equation. But Whole Foods isn’t the only supermarket fattening up on beauty. At a time when drug chains are shrinking cosmetics departments, supermarkets are beefing them up.

Manufacturers also are putting more effort into the trade channel. Revlon, for example, is continuing on the success of what it dubs the Revlon Express program, a condensed and convenient offering of the brand’s most popular lip, face, eye and nail products. Revlon Express was introduced in 2004 in a four foot wall configuration. New for 2005 is an Express Spinner, which contains the same full category assortment as Revlon’s 4-foot Express wall, but on a spinning rack. “Now any retailer with four empty tiles in their store can offer a complete cosmetic category to their shoppers,” said  David Gugino, vice president, customer marketing for Revlon.

Revlon Express and other manufacturer-driven programs are designed to tempt shoppers while they are on food-shopping trips. Even with these efforts, however, supermarket sales lagged last year.

Face makeup sales dropped 4.1 percent to $136 million in supermarkets for the 52-week period ended Jan. 23, according to Information Resources Inc. Nail dipped 5.3 percent to $99 million, lip declined 10.3 percent to $84 million and eye was off 4.2 percent to $134 million for the same period. All cosmetics categories declined across all mass outlets except eye, according to the IRI statistics. 

Vowing to reverse the drop, supermarkets are adopting three different philosophies for surviving in beauty. The basic strategies are selling exclusive natural products, convenient selections or full-blown beauty presentations.

Whole Foods represents the natural route — a collection of natural beauty products are housed in the all-natural food setting. Most of these products are only available at stores such as Whole Foods or Wild Oats. Whole Foods calls its beauty area Whole Body. One store in Manhattan has a freestanding area devoted solely to beauty. Last week, Whole Foods unveiled a new unit in Union Square with a makeup station featuring a testing area where consumers can select samples to take home. According to a Whole Foods spokesman, plans call for another New Jersey store to open in Middletown this summer.

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