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Prada Flirts with Color

<CS:BOLD>NEW YORK -- After a year spent building its skin care business, Prada is taking one tentative step into the color business -- with a tightly edited range of lip glosses -- this spring. <BR><BR>"We're not headed into full-coverage, decorative...

NEW YORK — After a year spent building its skin care business, Prada is taking one tentative step into the color business — with a tightly edited range of lip glosses — this spring.

“We’re not headed into full-coverage, decorative color — yet, anyway,” Jill Scalamandre, general manager of Prada’s beauty arm, Cosmetics International Distribution, is quick to point out. “But we are exploring ways to finish the skin, combining a bit of color with a treatment base. It’s a natural progression for the brand.”

The Prada skin care line was launched in 2000 with 27 stockkeeping units, all packaged in single-use — or “mono-dose” — containers aimed at drawing in experimental consumers, said Scalamandre. In 2001, the company also began targeting more traditional skin care consumers with multi-use — or “multi-dose” — packaging, she added. The most recent additions to the collection came this past September, with Lightening Concentrate/Face, Reviving Concentrate/Body and Reviving Concentrate/Hands.

Even though Scalamandre admits that building a new skin care brand in a soft economy is anything but easy, she said she’s pleased with the progression of the brand. “Skin care isn’t like color,” she said. “It takes a long time to build up skin care loyalty. We realized from the beginning that we were building this business for the long haul. And it’s starting to pay off. We’re finding that about 30 percent of those who buy us once come back to repurchase us, and we’re going to keep building on that. We want to keep attracting those new consumers.” Also, about 30 percent of the skin care line’s consumers are men, she added.

Although Prada Beauty’s core consumers are 27- to 45-year-olds — with the greatest number falling in the 32- to 38-year-old range — Scalamandre believes that the new sku’s will attract an even broader audience. “Our number-one item, across the board, is our lip balm,” she said. “Adding a bit of color to that was a logical next step.”

The new lip balms will be available in five shades — three variations of nude, as well as cranberry and brown tones — and will be launched in March. A box of 10 single-use lip balms will retail for $38, which will be the lowest price point in the premium-priced Prada line.

Prada beauty items are currently available in about 80 doors worldwide. In the U.S., there are about 22 doors, including select Saks Fifth Avenue, Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus doors, as well as Prada’s freestanding stores. Prada beauty items are also available on Neiman’s Web site. Although Scalamandre wouldn’t comment on the projected first-year sales of the colored lip balms, industry sources estimated that they could add $1 million or more to the beauty line’s retail sales, globally, in their first year on-counter.

Scalamandre also intends to keep leveraging the synergies between Prada’s fashion and its beauty with upscale limited-edition gift sets. For this past holiday, a Prada makeup bag was filled with a wide range of Prada samples, retailing for $125. A facial kit will be unveiled for Mother’s Day, with reviving facial products and a Prada headband for $60. Other sets are in the works.