NEW YORK — With retailers asking for guaranteed sales and more, small suppliers are often squeezed out of beauty departments.

But Wink Cosmetics, a fledgling line, is garnering attention from the likes of Nordstrom Rack as well as Harmon, Meijer, Drug Emporium and Raley’s.

Much like independent brands get into the door at department stores thanks to the personalities behind the products, Wink Cosmetics has its own cheerleader — Bunky Mar. She serves as director of design and marketing.

Mar, who gained mass experience at Markwins International and Skaffles, is bringing a level of promotional products that many retailers believe are a cut above competitors. “I thought there was a fast-changing teen demographic seeking more trend-targeted and sophisticated cosmetics promotions not currently offered at mass,” she explained.

Nordstrom Rack will have an exclusive launch for the fall 2004 collection. After that, other chains are open to sell the collection, called Beauty In Bloom. Although it is designed for fall, Mar said the looks don’t lock into one season. “What retailers tell me is that this collection really doesn’t have a season,” said Mar, who feels that would eliminate the need for markdowns. Industry sources peg first-year sales expectations in the $3 million range.

Wink’s products are soft and feminine, featuring flowers or foods such as peach and apple pie. The styles reflect the girly looks consumers are adopting rather than harsh street looks. “I believe there is a little girl in all of us,” Mar added.

The items are marketed to women of all ages, although retailers said they expected they would appeal to a young market. Price points range from $2.99 for single items to $9.99 for kits.

Mar thinks all types of mass market doors are a good fit with Wink Cosmetics. “We’ve had a lot of interest for our Cherry Pie product from grocery stores,” she noted.

Unlike many start-up brands eager for space on peg walls, Mar is content with promotional real estate. To help retailers find room for the products, Wink has a host of floor stand, side wing and clip strip options.

Wink isn’t the only start-up firm vying for space on already crowded shelves. It joins Arissa Studio from Beauty 21, Victoria Jackson from Markwins, American Idol from Beauty Innovations and Wild & Crazy from Mirage. The obstacles are daunting, but even a small slice of the $1.5 billion mass cosmetics market can put a small firm on the map.***

Townley’s everGirl cosmetics have made a debut in back-to-school advertisements from Kohl’s. The entire first spread of the circular stars the four characters — Skye, Hope, Joy and Starr. Each girl has her own beauty products promoted with apparel. The ad also urges girls to sign on to to take a test to find out which style fits her personality. EverGirl was created by Nickelodeon.

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