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Critical Mass: Shoppers Grade Mass Beauty

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.<BR><BR>That trend has slowed...

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.

Drugstores had the highest dollar-per-item purchase rates in the study. People buying a beauty item in a drugstore spent $17.82, versus the lowest, $4.24 at an extreme value store.

The GMDC study also tackled the position of skin care in mass doors. The survey found that drug-, food and discount stores are losing ground to specialty stores that make skin care a destination. Drugstores, such as CVS and Brooks Pharmacy, are trying to reverse this trend by outfitting select stores with European skin care departments. The jury is still out on whether these efforts will resonate with shoppers.

Skin care is an area where shortcomings of self-service departments are evident. Skin care consumers are confused about which products are right for their skin. “There is not just one skin care customer, and retailers should consider this when defining mass merchandising opportunities,” said White. This effort entails dividing the display by life stages, such as mature women versus acne-prone ages. Also, there is a distinct need for information to alleviate consumer confusion. Sampling is lacking in the mass market and White said solutions must be devised to offer trial opportunities.

Annual item purchases in traditional mass market channels are low, averaging only 1.4 units per household, according to the study. “Retailers can address this issue through multiple unit sales, incorporating them within lifestyle promotions and planning more frequent displays. The department needs to be more female-friendly,” added White. Again, skin care fits in to merchandising for overall women’s health.

Overall, the GMDC study supported the notion that consumers don’t shop by channels today. “Old labels and old rules no longer apply,” said White. Store choice today is about more than price, quality and selection — it is also about emotion. The retailers that become emotionally connected to consumers will win the beauty game, he concluded.

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NEW YORK — CVS Corp. reported a lower third-quarter profit as it works to integrate the Eckerd drugstores, which the company acquired from J.C. Penney Co. in July. The addition of the 1,268 Eckerd stores did boost CVS’ quarterly sales a robust 24 percent to $7.91 billion, up from $6.38 billion in the year-earlier period. CVS chairman, president and chief executive officer Tom Ryan stated the integration process is running ahead of schedule.