By  on July 1, 2005

NEW YORK — The duo behind Pantina — a new mass-market cosmetics brand — are smiling so much these days, their cheeks hurt. Their bout of acute cheerfulness began three weeks ago when the pair — Wendy Chang, vice president of product development, and Sonia Russomanno, vice president of marketing — introduced Pantina to retail buyers at the National Association of Chain Drug Store's Marketplace Meeting.

The new line, which has a decidedly prestige look (think Nars meets Stila), garnered interest from a host of retailers, such as Rite Aid, Brooks Eckerd Pharmacy, Duane Reade and Happy Harry's.

What makes retailers' fondness for Pantina exceptional is that beauty companies — from Revlon to fledgling newcomers Arissa and NYX — are embroiled in a battle for space along the beauty wall. Manufacturers report retailers are trimming space from underperforming mega brands, leaving a few feet of display space up for grabs.

Pantina will make its entry into drugstores this fall with countertop displays. The company expects to be in more than 1,000 stores by year-end, and grab in-line display space in nearly 10,000 doors next year. The 2006 rollout will likely include Canadian and South American retailers, as well.

Russomanno, who prior to her role at Pantina, was director of marketing for Avon's Mark brand, explained products in the line are meant to be portable and multi-tasking. For instance, each gloss is infused with Maxi-Lip, a patented ingredient designed to boost collagen production over a 29-day period.

Chang noted that product names such as Shake It Baby! shimmer dust powder and Da' Balm lip balm speak to Pantina's "sexy, smart and fun" positioning. Other standout products include the dual-ended French Minis nail polish pen and Spring Look Book, a Stila-inspired compact that contains three eye shadows, two cream-to-powder eyeliners, and application instructions. Products — 100 items in all — range in price from $4 to $7.

The company would not comment on sales expectations, but industry sources expect Pantina could reap $50 million in retail sales in 2006.

In September, Pantina will begin its media campaign, which relies on print ads in beauty books such as Lucky, Allure and Glamour, and online marketing. Beginning in August, consumers can log onto and sign up to receive full-size samples. In January, the company plans to kick off a sweepstakes — three winners will receive $500 worth of Pantina cosmetics — and begin a model search next spring.Pantina is owned by Interfashion Cosmetics, a contract manufacturing firm started by Wendy Chang's parents, Pan and Morris Chang. Their son, Jimmy, oversees Pantina's operations.

Wendy Chang, who studied international trade and marketing at F.I.T., learned the more "gritty" parts of the beauty business by working in Interfashion's research and development lab. She explained that since the lab is a stone's throw from Pantina's office, the beauty company can turn around a new product concept in three to four months.

The quick turnaround time allowed Chang and Russomanno to conduct focus groups for Pantina in L.A., New York and Chicago, manufacture the products, and introduce them at marketplace in five months' time.

Chang declared, "We have a long-term commitment to this brand."

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