By  on April 22, 1994

LOS ANGELES -- Beauty isn't booming at drugstore chains on the West Coast.

While still considered a core category, beauty has become less of a profit center, requiring retailers to focus on tougher editing of lines in their beauty departments.

Experimenting and trying new trends are out; streamlining and concentrating on in-demand basics are in.

"Beauty does have a niche for us, but for the impact and attraction of bringing customers into the store," said Bill Roatch, cosmetics buyer for Sacramento-based Raley's, which has 63 stores. "Since the majority of shoppers are women, beauty is a deparfrtment that brings them into the store to see what's new."

At the Wilsonville, Ore.-based PayLess, which has over 500 stores in 12 states, cosmetics and fragrance buyer Sheri Ralston said, "Our history has always viewed cosmetics as a core category. It's a very large department, and we devote the center space in the stores to it, so it's attractive real estate.

"We've found over the last year that we need to work on getting the turns and the inventory down to get the category more profitable. That's our main focus today," Ralston added.

Kelly Francis, cosmetics buyer at Newport Beach, Calif.-based Horton & Converse, which has 17 stores throughout Southern California, noted, "Beauty is still a focus as a profit center, but it has slowed down a bit. Turnover is good, but there's been a change in the type of turnover.

"We're turning over everyday items -- mascara, powder, foundation, bath products and soap. People seem to be a lot more interested in the basics and less willing to try new items right now."

Echoed Raley's Roatch, "We need to focus on the basics of our business and promote the hot categories more, instead of branching off experimenting."

The retailers were reluctant to cite year-to-date percentage growth in the beauty category.

"1993 was a rather soft year for many of the drug chains," conceded PayLess's Ralston. "We received some information from L'OrÄal that showed that the drug chains were down 8 percent in the category last year. We performed better than that. But another decline in the drug class of trade is anticipated for 1994."

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