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.
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye