By  on January 30, 2009

NEW YORK — Wet ‘n’ Wild had more to celebrate than just 30 years in business earlier this month.

The sluggish economy has consumers trading down to brands such as Wet ‘n’ Wild. It was, in fact, a troubled economic picture that encouraged the brand’s founder, Stanley Acker, to create the line in 1979. That analogy wasn’t lost on the current owner of Wet ‘n’ Wild — Markwins North America — as the company celebrated its anniversary last week. Shawn Haynes, senior vice president of marketing, Global Brand Development, discussed how the brand was launched in similar challenging times.

While Markwins honored the past three decades with actual products from the periods and iconic symbols (not to mention appropriate drinks such as Cosmos for the Nineties), the firm also unveiled new items it hopes to keep the momentum going for 2009. The historical packages and products illustrated how Wet ‘n’ Wild always stayed on top of color trends, such as those inspired by Madonna or “Sex and the City.”

Although many retailers cut back on holiday blockbusters for 2008, buyers said day-in, day-out sales are strong for Wet ‘n’ Wild. Also, more chains plan to add the firm’s Beauty Benefits, a mineral line infused with botanicals. Among the latest chains adding a display is Duane Reade. Haynes said Beauty Benefits is growing on schedule, a pace that was carefully calculated to “get the brand right.”

Wet ‘n’ Wild continues to get inspiration from pricier, department store lines. The 2009 launches reflect the trend in mimicking upscale items at downscale pricing. Capitalizing on the buzz around mascaras, Wet ‘n’ Wild offers its own rubberized brush and lash separator in an item called Lash Intense Mascara. The product, retailing for $4.99, lengthens and volumizes and is expected to help Wet ‘n’ Wild expand in the growing mascara market.

Also borrowing from department store brands is MegaEyes Crème eyeliner, which helps achieve the smoldering look that carries over into spring beauty trends. The cream liner can double as an eye shadow. The eyeliner retails for $3.99. There is also a MegaEyes Defining Marker, an eyeliner pen also priced at $3.99. There are eye shadow offerings in the form of I-Sparkle Eye Shadow and a loose-powder mineral shadow called Ultimate Minerals Eye Shadow. Haynes said mineral additions have been very well received. For brows, Wet ‘n’ Wild is adding an Ultimate Brow Kit as well as the Arch Envy Color & Set, a dual-ended eyebrow pencil and setting wax.

Wet ‘n’ Wild has been gaining share in foundation and Haynes expects even bigger numbers from Ultimate Match SPF 15 foundation priced at $4.99. The formula features a color-adjusting capability to eliminate mismatched foundation. Also for face are an Ultimate Mineral Blush and a Natural Wear Pressed Powder.

Haynes told an interesting story about the development of Speed Gloss Energizing Lip Shine. While sipping an energy drink, he had the idea to add energizing ingredients to lip gloss. The result is the Lip Shine that features Acai Berry, Gingko Biloba, Ginseng and Guarana.

Two final items include a Mega Last Long Wear Lip Color and an Eye Makeup remover available in a travel-friendly 3-oz. size.

Wet ‘n’ Wild was the pioneer in budget brands and despite having a few owners over the years, maintains a high recognition with consumers. In the Nineties, Wet ‘n’ Wild was owned by the same company as its number-one rival, Artmatic. Retailers’ confidence in Wet ‘n’ Wild helped that brand have staying power and Artmatic eventually folded.

Under Markwins, packaging, fixtures and formulas have been updated and distribution has mushroomed. “We hope to celebrate our 40th by continuing to serve women’s needs,” said Haynes. Industry observer Allan Mottus concluded that brands such as Wet ‘n’ Wild are well positioned for today’s consumer mind-set. “Shoppers are trading down or out. With Wet ‘n’ Wild price points, they can stay in the category without breaking the bank.”

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