NEW YORK -- Mass market retailers finally have a reason to smack their lips.
The enthusiasm is due to a crop of launches this year in the lipstick category, one of the few bright spots in a lackluster color cosmetics business.
While overall color sales in the mass market were flat or down in 1993, lipsticks grew at a 3.8 percent rate, to $460.2 million, according to data from Information Resources Inc. in Chicago.
Lipsticks account for 22.2 percent of overall color sales in mass market stores, according to Towne-Oller and Associates, a division of IRI. The figures put lipsticks ahead of face makeups, which have a 20.2 percent share, but behind eye color, with 24.3 percent, and nail care, with 33.3 percent.
While not the largest category, the lipstick business will continue to grow, according to buyers, who said they expect it to continue producing the highest sales gains in color cosmetics for the rest of 1994, especially with a series of new items slated.
"Lipstick is one category shoppers still buy, no matter what the trends are," explained Jo Ann O'Connor, buyer for Gordon's Deep Discount in Newark, N.J.
Even though a muted look is dominating beauty for spring, buyers agreed, the emphasis on appearing natural is not keeping customers from purchasing lipsticks in brighter tones, as well as natural-looking ones.
"There's a tremendous resurgence in lipsticks, and there is even a lot of interest in things like frosted shades," said Herb Wilson, co-president of Wilson Marketing Enterprises, New York.
"Lipstick is the one product everybody uses," added Fran Wilson, co-president of the same firm.
"Lipsticks are an affordable way to update a look and, unlike skin care or other products, lipstick is easy to understand," she noted.
The retailers said they are excited about several new lipsticks that will be hitting the market for spring and summer. In many cases, mass manufacturers are borrowing tactics from successful department store products, such as sun protection or long-lasting formulas.
Upcoming launches include:
ColorStay Lipcolor from Revlon, which includes a patented formula purportedly designed to stay on all day without smearing. ColorStay will be available in 20 colors and carry a suggested retail of $8.To promote the product, Cindy Crawford will appear in print and TV advertising that will debut in August.
Retailers believe ColorStay is the mass market equivalent to Ultima's Lipsexxxy, which was a major success in department stores. Lipsexxxy reportedly is nearing the $4 million mark at wholesale for its first year, sources said.
"We hope [ColorStay] can do for us what Lipsexxxy did for department stores," said Carol Allman, group director for Eckerd Drug Co.
LipTintings, from Wilson Marketing's Fran Wilson Creative Cosmetics, which combines the benefits of a lip balm with long-lasting color. The line includes six colors, ranging from mauve to pink. The suggested retail is $4.25.
Tapping into the nostalgia craze, Fran Wilson is also offering Lip Whites, pale and neutral white shades priced in the $2.75-to-$3 range. The company, long known for its innovative lipsticks such as MoodMatcher, is even making all of its lipsticks to kosher formulations.
"We're doing it for foreign markets, but also because 'kosher' also connotes that the product is pure," said Herb Wilson.
L'Oreal's Sheer Colour Riche Hydrating Lipcolour with SPF 15, a new collection of 12 hydrating shades that will deliver sun protection along with a hint of color. The suggested retail is $6.50.
Dana Cosmetics' Lipsticks with Vitamin E, a new line designed to help invigorate Dana's cosmetics business. The 24 shades carry a suggested retail of $1.99 each.
Ever Color Liquid Lipstick, a new line from Cosmo Cosmetics, Los Angeles. The group of long-lasting, smear-proof stick lip products will carry a suggested retail of $4.95 each.
Max Factor High Definition Lip Definer, a lip liner coupled with a blending brush for easy application. It is available in eight shades and has a suggested retail of $5.50.
To capitalize on the lipstick craze, retailers are experimenting with various strategies. For the recent grand opening of 10 new stores, The Rx Place Drug Mart, New York, promoted Revlon Moon Drops Lipsticks. An ad compared Moon Drops, which contain high concentrations of moisturizers, to department store brands from "an exclusive Fifth Avenue salon" that are priced much higher at $14. The store also distributed coupons for L'OrÄal lipsticks at a buy-one-get-one-free price of $4.98.Genovese Drug Stores, Melville, N.Y., shifted from an overall discount of 20 percent on major brands such as Maybelline and Cover Girl to a program where specific lipsticks from various lines will be featured with an offer of $1 off.
Maybelline has been supporting its lip gloss with a 75 cent on-pack coupon that retailers said has boosted volume.
Despite the heavy interest in lipsticks, one concern expressed by buyers was that prices were climbing too high. Some fear higher tickets from Revlon and L'OrÄal could hurt sales.
"Their prices are going up, so we have to sell their lipsticks at $6.50," said one buyer. "I'm not sure our customers will pay that much."
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