NEW YORK -- Long known for its array of vitamins and diet supplements, General Nutrition Center stores are now flexing their muscles in skin and hair care.
GNC -- the nation's largest health and nutrition chain -- has watched competitors such as The Body Shop, Estee Lauder's Origins, Beauty Without Cruelty and Blackmores build a substantial beauty following by emphasizing a natural positioning. Mass market retailers such as Pittsburgh-based Thrift Drug and Kmart Corp., Troy, Mich., also have been adding natural lines to their beauty selection.
GNC, which has 1,540 company and franchised units in the U.S., hopes to get more of the customers attracted by vitamins or other health-related merchandise to come into the beauty departments.
Despite the popular image of a well-toned male frequenting GNC, the company said 65 percent of its clientele is female, making the chain well- positioned to expand its beauty business.
"We feel there is a correlation between feeling good and looking good," explained Michael Stoughton, sales manager for cosmetics, health maintenance care and apparel for GNC. "We've put an emphasis on building our beauty line."
Beauty, according to Stoughton, accounts for about 3 percent of store sales. GNC hopes to almost double that with its private label line of beauty items sold under the Natural Solutions logo. GNC units average annual sales of $400,000.
An ongoing repackaging program of Natural Solutions, a line with 35-plus stockkeeping units, began last September. The new design features a more clinical, health-oriented look.
Natural Solutions had been packaged in an array of colors with no coherent theme. Now, Stoughton said, there is a uniform look.
The line consists of hair care, eye care, nail care, teenage skin care and massage items. The assortment is also being fine-tuned to reflect market needs. Among the new items are a hair care system containing a shampoo, a conditioner and a supplement selling for $17.99 and glycerin soaps at $1.99.
Stoughton singled out the Natural Solutions Teen Skin kit as a new sku that is "doing really well."
GNC contracts out the production of its Natural Solutions line, which uses all natural ingredients that are not tested on animals. The firm also intersperses several nationally known brands in its beauty mix, including Blackmores skin care, Mill Creek and Rachel Perry.Jeff Tolrud, a franchisee in Tampa, Fla., estimated that 90 percent of his cosmetics mix is GNC private label. He said new signs and fixtures offered by GNC have helped raise awareness of Natural Solutions.
"We're seeing more people pick up a nail care or massage oil while they are here for their vitamins," said Tolrud, whose store competes with a Wal-Mart and a Sally's Beauty Supply for beauty sales.
Stoughton hopes to see the percentage of GNC's own label increase in the assortment. The private label items can yield almost twice the gross margins of national brands.
The company has made it known in financial reports that it hopes to continue to shift sales to higher-margin vitamins, sports nutrition supplements and beauty items and away from less profitable food products.
Stoughton also hasn't ruled out the addition of a color cosmetics line. "Right now we're concentrating on hair, skin and body care," he said.
Surprisingly, while specialty stores such as Goodebodies and drugstores like Thrift Drug are building bath care volume, Stoughton said GNC's growth is still primarily in skin and hair care.
Although the size of GNC stores varies dramatically, most units stock at least 12 feet of beauty items stacked five to seven shelves high.
To highlight the new packaging the chain has created green wooden fixtures similar to those used in specialty chains such as The Body Shop. The beauty items are in the front of the store.
"We're trying to create a boutique image," Stoughton said.
He added that the fixturing continues to evolve as GNC opens new prototypes. Its latest look is on display at a new store in Schaumburg, Ill.
Stoughton said GNC is also planning to start promoting its beauty items in its advertising, which has traditionally focused on nutritional supplements.
Niche products continue to outperform traditional color cosmetics.
Several mass market chains, including Walgreen Co., Caldor and F&M, are converting unused sales space by using clip strips of a line of unusual items marketed by Cosmetically Sealed Industries, Mt. Vernon, N.Y.
The clip strips -- long panels with hooks on them to hold merchandise -- can be affixed to the edges of shelves. Stores have long used the devices in other departments, but Cosmetically Sealed is the first line to make use of them in beauty.Cosmetically Sealed features Sealed With a Kiss, a roll-on lip fixative designed to make lipstick smear-proof; My Nails Are Sealed, a calcium-based nail strengthener, and My Nik is Sealed, a product that stops bleeding caused by razor cuts. While there are similar products aimed at the men's shaving market, retailers said this one is the first targeted to women.
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)