NEW YORK -- Del Laboratories is attempting to overtake the professional nail care business, the fastest growing category in the mass beauty market.
Del, one of the most innovative companies in the mass market, is now shipping its new Sally Hansen Professional line.
The 28-stockkeeping-unit line is the first introduction into the professional nail care category from a major beauty manufacturer. Until now, the business has been dominated by niche players -- many with a heritage in beauty salons, such as Kiss Products of Port Washington, N.Y.
The Del assortment includes acrylic nails, nail glue, silk and fiberglass wraps, sculpture powders and implements. Prices for the line, which is currently shipping to 15,000 mass outlets, range from $2.99 Quick Dry Nail Glue to $10 for the Gel Overlay Kit.
"We believe this is one of the fastest-growing segments of the cosmetics business," said Bill McMenemy, executive vice president of Del Laboratories, based in Farmingdale, N.Y. "This is different from the inexpensive false nails that dominated the market in the early Eighties. These are professional quality products."
Research from New York-based Towne-Oller & Associates shows sales for 12 months ended August 1993 rising 11 percent to $92 million for the professional nail care category.
McMenemy, who estimated that the budding professional market "should double in one year," expects Sally Hansen Professional to be the catalyst behind the sales surge. The firm is pumping $3 million to $4 million in print advertising to support Sally Hansen Professional.
The campaign will break in the April editions of Cosmopolitan and Glamour. In addition to consumer publications, Sally Hansen Professional will be advertised in Nails Magazine, a trade publication targeted at nail technicians. Training tapes will also be produced for in-store cosmeticians and nail technicians.
Industry sources estimate Sally Hansen Professional could achieve sales of at least $20 million in the first year, making it the number one player.
Retailers agree that Sally Hansen Professional could have a powerful impact on the business.
"They have a lot going for them because of the high awareness of the Sally Hansen name," said Carol Allman, group director for the Eckerd Drug Co. of Largo, Fla. "Salon-style nails have not been a branded business before."McMenemy expects sales growth to be fueled by two trends. First is the fact that many salon professionals are going to mass retailers to buy their supplies. The other is that more women have learned how to apply acrylic nails at home.
"Instead of spending as much as $50 at a salon, women can do it at home for under $10," said McMenemy.
Retailers agree that the trend toward applying nails at home has created the need for a new department in their stores. Some of the retailers that have devoted space to professional nail care departments include Genovese Drug Stores in Melville, N.Y., Drug Emporium, based in Powell, Ohio, Revco Drug Stores in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Eckerd.
"Artificial nails are absolutely the strongest department in cosmetics right now," said Judy Wray, senior cosmetics buyer for Revco.
Retailers appear to welcome the growing volume in nail care since gross margins in the category are at least 35 percent, while color cosmetics hovers at less than 30 percent.
In addition, not as many competing outlets offer a large selection of professional nail care items. To date, drugstores have been the leaders in expanding their assortments to feature the new products, giving them an edge over department, discount and food stores.
In addition to the Kiss line, current top-selling brands include products from Fing'rs of Camarillo, Calif.; Ardell International in Los Angeles; IBD in Van Nuys, Calif.; Cosmar in Huntington Beach, Calif.; Jonel Inc. in Chicago; Orly in Chatsworth, Calif., and Nailene of Costa Mesa, Calif.
Many of these lines originally were supplied to professional salons and eventually merchandised in the mass market by distributors. Because consumers recognized the brand names from salons, retailers say there was instant acceptance.
To reinforce its salon roots, Kiss Products sends staff manicurists to stores to participate in promotions similar to the free makeovers in the cosmetics market.
"This has resulted in amazing sales increases," said Larry Kapfer, vice president of sales for Kiss, whose Lightning Nails is its main mass line.
Competitors debate the viability of the Sally Hansen name in professional nail care since it is not a line migrating from salons. "You can't buy a salon heritage," said one manufacturer.Retailers, however, think the power of the Sally Hansen name -- the market leader in traditional nail care -- will build sales.
"There are other lines selling well that are not, in the true sense of the word, salon brands, so I don't think that is a problem," said Wray.
Added Allman at Eckerd, "If anything, you are going to get more consumers in the general market -- people who never purchased these items -- to try them because of the Sally Hansen name."
Although the new Sally Hansen line will challenge the niche brands, retailers don't think they will have to edit the assortment to find room for it.
"We're putting them on a side rack near our nail department," said Allman, referring to unused space on the sides of end-aisle displays. McMenemy agreed that retailers are using the introduction as an opportunity to expand the professional nail care set beyond the typical four-foot department.
"They will be adding to the department. And the issue of space isn't as big a deal anymore with the phaseout of Clarion," he added, referring to Procter & Gamble's decision to close out its Clarion color makeup.
The launch of Sally Hansen Professional is reminiscent of Del's assault on the bath category four years ago. That category had been characterized by smaller players and a lack of coherent merchandising programs -- much like the recent history of professional nail care.
When Del launched Naturistics four years ago, it advocated a separate bath department in mass outlets. The introduction was so successful that Naturistics not only sparked a sales explosion but pioneered a new category, populated by a proliferation of competing lines.
"We are aiming to be just as bold in nail care," McMenemy noted, "as we were in bath."
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