Southwest Soaring with Gains of 5-30%

DALLAS -- Texas women are turning to drugstores for their beauty products more and more as an alternative to shopping at department stores, area drugstore merchants claim.<BR><BR>With little or no advertising, drugstores have been able to rack up...

DALLAS — Texas women are turning to drugstores for their beauty products more and more as an alternative to shopping at department stores, area drugstore merchants claim.

With little or no advertising, drugstores have been able to rack up sales gains of 5 to 30 percent in the cosmetics category.

The retailers pointed to competitive pricing, convenience, offbeat brands unavailable elsewhere and personal touches such as free delivery as the factors giving them a sharper edge.

The drugstores also noted that they are increasingly staffing their stores with full-time beauty advisers.

Body and bath products and the sun, nail, hair and skin care categories are proving most alluring to consumers, retailers said, with the color and fragrance businesses trailing the pack.

Cosmetics sales are up 30 percent year to date at Dougherty’s Airway Pharmacy, a drugstore at Preston Royal strip shopping center here, said Kelly Cowman, beauty buyer.

She attributed the gains to the store’s product mix and customer service, which includes free delivery and cash-on-delivery service. Except for vendor promotions and clearance tables, Dougherty’s does not discount products.

“We attend seminars offered by vendors to stay current on the latest in the industry,” said Cowman. “We want to be competitive.”

Treatment is the leading beauty category at Dougherty’s, with products containing alpha-hydroxy and other acids and minerals most popular.

Best-selling lines include Korfs, a treatment brand from Italy formulated with vitamin A derivatives; MD Formulation, an acid-based line; Roc, a German line geared for both dry and oily skin; Ahava, an Israeli line containing minerals from the Dead Sea; Alpha Hydrox from Neoteric Cosmetics; L’Oreal’s Plenitude, and skin care offerings from Elizabeth Arden, Ultima II and Revlon.

A remodeling at Dougherty’s about two years ago added additional counter space for body and bath products, which Cowman said are perennially popular.

Hot vendors are Perlier, Ben Rickert, Vitabath, Klorane and Upper Canada, which also makes aromatherapy products stocked by Dougherty’s.

Top color lines at the store include Elizabeth Arden, Ultima II, Revlon, L’Oreal, Allercreme, DuBerry, Covermark and Dermablend.

At the Village Pharmacy, a drugstore in the upscale Highland Park Village strip shopping center here, beauty sales are trending up 30 percent over last year, said Wilhelmina Von Heflick, cosmetics manager.

“Our customers range from preteens to senior citizens,” said Von Heflick. “Part of our draw is our diverse product range.”

As an example, she listed skin care bestsellers: La Via Lattea, an Italian milk-based line geared to teens; Kalemata, which focuses on the eyes; Soins Complice; Elizabeth Arden’s Alpha-Ceramide; Aida Grey; Almay, and L’OrÄal.

The store will stock Plenitude’s new AHA-based treatment line, set to make its debut this month.

The Village Pharmacy also recently launched Plenitude’s new treatment line with sunscreen called Protective Daily Moisture Lotion, which is available for different skin types.

Von Heflick said sun care is of prime concern to customers here in light of the hot, sunny climate.

She said moisturizers and hair care products with sunblocks are among the hottest items in the store, as are self-tanners, citing Elizabeth Arden’s self-tanners, Self-Tanning Cream from Aida Grey and Rene Furterer’s line of hair mousses, masks, conditioners and shampoos for sun and after-sun use.

Color cosmetics sales at the Village Pharmacy are also following the sundial, with light and nude shades selling quickly.

“My customer isn’t buying the darker colors because she wants to look more natural outdoors,” explained Von Heflick.

Fast-moving color lines are Elizabeth Arden, Aida Grey, Revlon and L’Oreal. Revlon’s Nude lipstick and Arden’s Bare lipstick are particularly popular.

Von Heflick said she views department stores as her prime competition and she prices accordingly.

“I don’t want to be perceived as a discounter — I don’t typically mark things down unless it’s part of manufacturer’s offer,” she noted. “I want to be competitive. This isn’t a grab-it and go to the cash register store. We spend lots of time with customers because we want them to return.”

Von Heflick said she personally tests each product that is stocked, adding, “If I don’t try it, I don’t sell it. It’s a way to build trust.”

The store also carries a wide array of fragrances as well as nail, hair and body and bath lines.

Highland Park Pharmacy, an 82-year-old store located in the tony Dallas suburb of Highland Park, attracts a moneyed customer.

Although one-third of its total business is generated by an old-fashioned soda fountain, owner Thel Bowlin said the store has a beauty business that’s ahead 5 percent against last year.

Bowlin said the store’s beauty advisers and personal services such as in-house charge accounts and free delivery are enticing more business.

The top beauty category at the store is bath and body, with Perlier, Vitabath and Caswell-Massey among the bestsellers.

The leading color lines include DuBerry and Revlon. The best-selling skin care line is Roc.

At Greenberg’s, a drugstore in Preston Center strip shopping center here, treatment, nail care and bath and body are driving the business, according to Sue Pressler, beauty buyer. Pressler said cosmetics sales overall are ahead year-to-date.

In treatment, Greenberg’s best-selling lines are L’OrÄal, Revlon, Max Factor, Allercreme and Almay. In-demand bath and body brands include Taylor of London, Perlier, Vitabath and Neutrogena. Barielle nail care items are also fast checkers.

Greenberg’s stocks mostly classic fragrances for women, including Maja and 4711, and mass brands for men such as Cody’s Stetson and English Leather.

Pressler noted, “Location is everything to our beauty business. Other malls and department stores are very close, so we have to stay competitive in price and offer top service.”

Eliza Gholson, a beauty sales associate at Country Club Pharmacy in Dallas, echoed Pressler on the importance of easy access for customers.

“Customers like to shop drugstores for beauty for the convenience,” she said. “They can pull right up to front door, make the purchase and be gone. They also like the individualized service.”