NEW YORK — Mass market beauty departments were created to make cosmetics shopping easier — a quick pickup of a lipstick while waiting for a prescription, or an impulse purchase of a blush when buying broccoli.

That trend has slowed down and so have beauty sales in mass stores. Instead, many consumers find food, drug and mass channel beauty departments confusing with no help in sight. That’s according to a recent General Merchandise Distributor’s Council Educational Foundation Study called Merchandising for Success.

The bewilderment is at its height in beauty departments, according to Roy White, vice president of education for the trade group. After analyzing the comments of the survey, GMDC conducted an experiment to see if making the department easier to shop bolstered results.

Eye makeup departments were converted from in-line sets to an organized end cap in 16 supermarkets and then were compared with control stores. The end-cap style stores produced dollar sales that were 20.3 percent higher and unit sales that were up 12.5 percent over the traditional merchandising method. “This suggests that ‘turning the aisles inside out’ and using more end cap fixtures, especially when space is limited, helps raise sales,” said White. This merchandising tool leverages more unplanned purchases, he added.

Impulse purchases are a major sales-building weapon for mass stores. In fact, Revlon research reveals 62 percent of nail polish sales are not planned. White said the study helped his association craft some best practices for building sales, including building impulse sales by highlighting new colors. Revlon, which was one of the study’s sponsors, already is adopting and suggesting these strategic tools.

Another best practice for beauty is using the umbrella of women’s well-being to furnish sales. Women view beauty purchases as an extension of their efforts at improving health. “A total women’s well-being strategy must incorporate cosmetics,” White suggested, adding that 46 percent of the women identified beauty care products as a path to well-being.

What makes a shopper go elsewhere for beauty? The GMDC research found that price is the biggest factor driving a consumer out the door. That was noted by 38 percent of the survey. Selection was next, at 33 percent. Convenience is another driving force, with 18 percent. Even though consumers complain about a lack of service, only 5 percent go elsewhere based on that factor. Service is never going to be an option for all mass merchants, White said, so making the department easier to shop can offset a lack of trained help.

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