After a four-year incubation period at Wal-Mart, Coty is readying its color cosmetics brand Rimmel London for a national debut in the U.S. market this fall. And, while the average U.S. consumer — Wal-Mart cosmetics shoppers excluded — may not be familiar with the 168-year-old beauty brand, Coty plans to quickly make Rimmel as ubiquitous as Revlon.

The company’s first-year goal for the London-born brand is an aggressive one: to rank within the top five cosmetics brands in its retail accounts by the end of its first year of national distribution.

“The category has been dominated by the same four or five players — nobody has cracked the top five in literally 20 years,” noted John Galantic, president of Coty Beauty U.S. “We’ve done it in Canada and we’ll do it in the U.S.” The company plans to roll out Rimmel to 9,000 stores by spring 2005.

If its international track record is any indication, Rimmel could very well succeed in shifting the balance of power along the beauty wall. It is the number five brand in Canada, and it generally ranks among the top three in markets throughout Europe.

Industry sources predict the sassy, value-priced cosmetics brand could eventually ring up annual retail sales of $80 million to $100 million in the U.S. Estimates indicate Rimmel does about $40 million to $50 million in 2,983 Wal-Mart doors.

Price points in the line typically fall under $6, just below those of Cover Girl, and products include innovations such as Extreme Definition Comb Mascara and Lycra Wear Nail Polish. As part of its national rollout, Coty will also relaunch the line’s fragrance, Beat by Rimmel, with new packaging.

Ousting a brand from the top five list within the beauty establishment — namely Cover Girl, Maybelline, Revlon, L’Oréal or Almay — will require herculean merchandising and marketing might.

Any new entry will drive the category, even if it simply grabs share from a lesser brand, noted industry consultant Suzanne Grayson. “Obviously, they have already done very well at Wal-Mart, and so there is plenty of prior awareness for the brand. It’s not like it’s just coming out of the box.”

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