By  on March 18, 2005

NEW YORK — While there’s no shortage of U.S. skin care companies vying for space in drugstore beauty departments, Rite Aid thought it best to pluck its next exclusive collection from Switzerland. Rite Aid’s Swiss find follows along a trail forged by several of its competitors, which have imported lines from Europe in the hopes of making their stores a destination for beauty shoppers.

The skin care line, called Swisso Logical, boasts a decidedly Swiss Alps cachet, helped in large part by packaging that shares the same color scheme as the red and white Swiss flag. Formulas across the line include echinacea extract — known for its wound-healing capabilities and billed as an antiaging ingredient.

Swisso Logical’s product catalogue — provided by its parent company, Zepter International — paints a romantic picture of product formulation: plants flourishing on remote terrain high in the Alps are picked at dawn and their natural ingredients are extracted within two hours.

For all intents and purposes, Swisso Logical is Rite Aid’s answer to CVS’ exclusive beauty line, Lumene, from Finland. CVS began rolling out the Finnish skin care collection in November 2003, and has expanded the assortment to include color cosmetics, makeup brushes and cosmetics bags. Over the last several years, a handful of drugstores, namely CVS, Brooks Pharmacy and Duane Reade, have outfitted select stores with upscale skin centers stocked with French brands such as Vichy and Avène.

While Rite Aid has not yet experimented with the European skin care center concept, Swisso Logical does tie into the retailer’s evolving strategy of offering an expanded assortment of spa-type products, according to Rite Aid category manager Judy Wray. Rite Aid got the ball rolling on that front with the introduction of its homegrown specialty bath line, Pure Spring, in April 2001. Over the years, Rite Aid has continued to expand and refine the assortment, adding new flavors and products each winter and spring. Several of this season’s six additions include Honey Moisturizing Lip Balm, housed in a shallow rectangular tin, and a four-piece Body Bar set, a crate of exfoliating bars in pomegranate, soy, milk and citrus. 

Next month, Rite Aid will launch Swisso Logical in 800 stores, and then roll out the line to more stores based on demand, said a Rite Aid spokeswoman. The drugstore chain will clear a four-foot section for the line, taking space away from color cosmetics. The display, located directly across from specialty bath, will house 15 items including women’s skin care as well as men’s grooming products under the subbrand Swisso Logical Philip for Man.

Swisso Logical’s European offering also includes fragrances, color cosmetics, sun care and a baby line. Wray acknowledged there was room to grow Rite Aid’s Swisso Logical assortment, but said the retailer has no current plans to do so.

Swisso Logical price points are somewhat higher than those of L’Oréal and range from a $7.99 makeup remover to $24 for Hydro Lifting Serum, a moisturizer designed to minimize wrinkles.

The retailer plans to introduce the brand to shoppers through its circulars and in-store demonstrations during store events, such as grand openings. Rite Aid expects Swisso Logical to reap more than $1 million in first-year retail sales.

Industry expert Allan Mottus said Rite Aid mitigates the risk of injecting an unknown brand into the mix by taking space from the underperforming cosmetics category. He added that consumers’ fickleness might spell good news for Swisso Logical. “Consumers are so less brand loyal today,” said Mottus, adding dryly: “Retailers aren’t very brand loyal, either.”

Industry consultant Suzanne Grayson, president of Grayson Associates, said European brands are as much about snob appeal as they are about newness. She added that, from a strategic point of view, these brands could help build drugstores into destinations, but “they are not likely a money maker in the short term.”

She also cautioned that, without advertising, consumers often do not know what to expect from these products.

Despite the inherent challenges of hooking shoppers on a new brand, Rite Aid has had success with several of its exclusive lines, namely Pure Spring and Umberto Giannini hair care. In addition to Swisso Logical, the retailer reportedly plans to make room for an exclusive teen makeup brand called Jesse’s Girl in late spring.

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