NEW YORK -- Raley's, a West Coast supermarket chain, is exploring the possibility of featuring an expanded bath category, something traditionally shunned by supermarkets.
Late last year, the Sacramento, Calif.-based chain created extensive bath and body shops in two of its 63 units. If they succeed, the boutiques will be installed in other stores, according to Bill Roatch, cosmetics buyer for Raley's.
He noted that it will be up to the manager of each unit to decide whether to enlarge bath space, and that no timetable has been set for possible expansion.
"We're watching the category. We want to make sure bath and body is a long-lasting trend," said Roatch. "If it is, we may even explore private label."
Raley's executives hope their bath endeavor is successful for one simple reason: profit. The supermarket chain recently scrutinized its beauty mix and deleted items that weren't producing sufficient gross margins and turns.
The retailer cut higher-priced cosmetics lines to concentrate on value-oriented brands such as Cover Girl, as well as to give space to the more profitable bath category, Roatch noted.
While traditional cosmetics products yield gross margins in the 30 to 35 percent range, Raley's is expecting to generate margins closer to 50 percent with its bath venture, he added.
Roatch is aware, however, that some competing retailers have been disappointed with turns in the bath category.
"We know that can be one of the drawbacks," he said, adding that the store will keep close track of turns.
He claimed, however, that Raley's will benefit from offering great value compared with the higher-priced bath items sold by specialty stores such as The Body Shop.
Last October, Raley's edited out slow-moving mass market fragrances in a store in Woodland, Calif., allowing room to build the chain's first enlarged bath boutique.
"We have the technology to know what is selling and what isn't, and we found we could cut back in men's and women's fragrances," said Roatch. The space was used to build a 20-foot-long bath shop.
For the installation, one of the Woodland unit's managers visited local vegetable growers to purchase tomato lugs. The containers are now used to house the bath items. He also got wood from a dilapidated barn to use as decorative fixtures, creating a rustic bathhouse look.The other prototype is in a new Raley's in Elk Grove, Calif., which was opened last November. The bath department is 24 feet long, located within the cosmetics department.
Wooden baskets and shelves are affixed to wooden slats, creating fixtures to house the assortment, while decorative vines have been used to give the department an upscale appearance. Several vendors who have seen both Raley presentations say they surpass the look of most drugstore bath departments.
The product selection at both prototypes also rivals that of drugstores. The mix includes LaLoren's Sarah Michaels line, Elizabeth Arden's Spa line, Yardley Bath Shoppe, Naturistics, Pears Personal Pleasures, a regional brand called One-On-One and San Francisco Soap Company. Raley's is even stocking Tisserand, an upscale aromatherapy line sold mainly in specialty stores.
"I think we are seeing that supermarkets can sell bath items," said Mark Kaplan, president of LaLoren in Stoughton, Mass.
All Raley's stores sell basic bath products such as Calgon and Vaseline Intensive Care in the toiletries area of the store. According to Roatch, it is up to managers to decide whether to add more upscale lines and to expand the space.
"We give our managers a lot of autonomy," he said. "Many stores have added Sarah Michaels already and some are looking at the boutiques."
Supermarkets have been slower to add cosmetics and bath items than drugstores and discount chains, since most have had trouble creating a beauty presentation in the center of a grocery store -- especially when aromas from bakeries and meat departments waft into the beauty area.
Cosmetics turns, typically four times or less per year, are also drastically lower than traditional food items and many supermarket retailers aren't willing to wait to build the business.
It is no surprise, however, that Raley's would be a pioneer. The chain was originally a separate drugstore operation that grew into a grocery business. While most combination food/drugstore retailers now integrate non-food items into the center of the store, Raley's maintains a separate drugstore space in its units.
"We want you to think you are in a freestanding drugstore," said Roatch.
The separation between food and drug is expected to help Raley's build its cosmetics and bath business, according to manufacturers.While Raley's may have potential, many supermarket operators continue to delay making a commitment to the bath category. For the year ended mid-October 1993, supermarket bath volume dropped a percentage point over the comparable period in 1992, to $115 million.
Concluded Kaplan, "Many retailers are still in an experimental phase with bath and body. They are trying to determine just the right mix of products, price points and lines."
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews