NEW YORK — Ultima II is flinging itself back into the women’s fragrance market.
In September, the Revlon division will launch Head Over Heels, its first scent in the nearly five years since UII was introduced in 1990.
The new women’s scent is just part of the company’s plans to expand its reach without broadening its distribution. “Our goal is to become a multi-categorical business within the [2,000] doors that already carry us,” said Geoffrey Donaldson, president of Revlon’s department store group. “We have been pretty much a one-segment business: color cosmetics with only some treatment.”
According to Donaldson, who declined to discuss dollar figures, color now accounts for 75 percent of Ultima’s total sales. Fragrance makes up less than 2 percent and treatment the remaining 23 percent.
Industry sources estimate Ultima’s total 1993 wholesale volume at $80 million.
“We are hoping that by 1996, fragrance will represent 20 percent of our total sales, treatment 30 percent and color 50 percent,” Donaldson said. “We plan to do this not by decreasing our color business but by building up the division’s total sales and the sales of treatment and fragrance.”
With Head Over Heels, Ultima hopes to broaden the brand’s reach into the fragrance category, an area in which the brand has traditionally been weak.
Sources said the UII women’s scent is less than 2 percent of total wholesale volume, or less than $1 million at wholesale. “When we launched UII, it was around the same time that we came out with The Nakeds, so it never got the support that it needed,” said Andrea Robinson, president of marketing for Revlon’s department store group, referring to the launch of Ultima’s top-selling cosmetics concept of matte, neutral color products.
“It’s got a nice cult following with our existing customer but it didn’t attract new users to the counter,” said Robinson. “This time we are going to do it right.”
Head Over Heels will be marketed as a playful product, in sharp contrast to the often serious mood of the typical prestige fragrance. Rising from the top of the square bottle, for example, is a pair of pink-glass legs that seem to be kicking the air. Just as non-traditional is the fragrance, a sparkling, fresh floral.
“A lot of cosmetics companies seem to be focusing on status — the aspirational aspect of cosmetics — so there is a sameness about so many of the department store brands,” Donaldson said. “But there are a lot of other important things about cosmetics, like being hot, newsy, fun and high energy.”
This irreverent approach has become an Ultima trademark during the past year as the Revlon division launched one offbeat product after another, such as Lipsexxxy, Eyesexxxy and Falsies Mascara. Another major strategy has been to build the business an item at a time, thus increasing productivity per stockkeeping unit.
“We are looking to reduce our total number of sku’s, but we also want to increase our productivity per sku,” Donaldson said. “So we are focusing on single hot items, rather than complete lines.” Donaldson added that in the last two years Ultima has pared its total sku’s down from 600 to 350. To that end, this year Ultima has cut back the number of its seasonal shade promotions from four to two.
The strategy apparently has worked, with Ultima reportedly chalking up an 18 percent sales gain last year to attain the $80 million volume mark. Another 25 percent gain is projected for this year, pushing the wholesale total to $100 million.
Progress has been noted by retailers. “Ultima has a whole kind of attitude and personality,” said Margo Scavarda, senior vice president and general merchandise manager at The Broadway. “They don’t launch just another lipstick or just another mascara. Their new products are young and fun. They aren’t just following the mold.
“We have been real pleased with Ultima’s performance,” she added. “Our highest sales increase for any makeup and treatment company last year was in Ultima. We have worked together to build a great partnership with them to do a wonderful job of merchandising and positioning.”
At J.C. Penney, Dallas, Ann Gravseth, divisional merchandise manager of fragrance and cosmetics, said, “We are very pleased with the success of Ultima color and treatment products in our stores. We think their item-intensive strategy is superb. Lip and Eyesexxxy are real winners and we think that Falsies, with its great TV advertising, will be just as good.”
“The only problem with using a key-item strategy to drive a color business is that if the shades aren’t forecast correctly, your color business can hit a slump,” said Pat Joyce, divisional merchandise manager at Rich’s, Atlanta.
Head Over Heels is expected to generate $11 million at wholesale in the first year, according to industry sources.
Ultima will spend $7 million to $8 million on advertising and promotion in the fourth quarter of this year, with more than 50 percent of the total earmarked for television, Donaldson said.
Regional and national print campaigns will break in the November editions of women’s fashion and service magazines, Robinson said. Regional television spots will hit the airwaves in early October, paving the way for national network advertising in late October and December.
The company will distribute a million samples throughout the fourth quarter, Donaldson said, including carded vials in the shape of black platform pumps.
The new scent also will be aggressively priced, with an opening price point of $28.50 for a 1.9-oz. eau de toilette spray. The rest of the line consists of a 3.9-oz. eau de toilette spray for $38.50, a 1.9-oz. eau de parfum spray for $36.50 and a 6-oz. body lotion for $25.
Ultima first took a playful, sexy stance a year ago with Lipsexxxy, a long-wearing lipstick launched with a breezy ad campaign.
According to Donaldson, last year the company spent $9 million on television commercials that featured Ultima model Jenny Brunt lip synching to the pop song “I’m Too Sexy” by the British band Right Said Fred.
In nine months, the lipstick reportedly sold 2.3 million units. With a suggested retail of $11 to $11.50 for each of the 22 shades, that puts the brand at over $25 million at retail in the first nine months.
The “sexxxy” concept was extended in June with Sunsexxxy bronzers and Eyesexxxy eyeshadows this past October; sources project it will do $6 million at wholesale in its first 12 months. Ultima’s latest color entry is Falsies mascara, which will hit stores in the middle of this month, with price tags of $12.50 per tube.
“Mascara is not a very substantial business for us, so we see it as an opportunity for us,” Robinson said. The company is reportedly expecting Falsies to double its current mascara business to about $6 million.
Ultima will spend $8 million advertising Falsies on national TV in a campaign that will break in the middle of March and run through the rest of the year, Donaldson said.
The tag line for the Falsies ads says: “Not since the push-up bra has something done so much for so little.” But while venturing into fragrance and maintaining its momentum in color, Ultima is also moving deeper into treatment after a three-year hiatus.
Brighten Up Tighten Up, a moisturizing and firming eye cream that hit stores in September, claims to not only firm the eye area but to lighten and brighten the skin with optical diffusers. Since its launch, Brighten Up Tighten Up has reportedly sold a quarter of a million pieces. At $18.50 per 0.5-oz. jar, that means that in less than six months, the cream had sales of almost half a million dollars.
In late December Ultima introduced Smart Move Lotion, a product that was designed to reduce fine, dry lines, while soothing, smoothing and moisturizing the skin. A 1.7-oz. bottle sells for $25.
In the spring, the new lotion will be backed by co-op advertising and one million samples.
“We started selling Brighten Up Tighten Up this fall, and it has been very successful for us,” Gravseth noted. “Smart Move just hit our counters on the first of the year, but we anticipate that it will do very well. We had good, strong gains with Ultima in 1993 and look forward to a continuing strong 1994.”
Rich’s Joyce noted that so far this year, Lip Sexxxy, Eye Sexxxy, Brighten Up Tighten Up and Smart Move are comprising 30 percent of Ultima’s business at Rich’s.
“We are forecasting Falsies will do 10 percent or better of Ultima’s sales this year, which means that the four products together will be doing 40 percent or better of Ultima sales,” she added. “We are finding that their innovative products add a lot of interest to our stores.”