Critical Mass: Beauty Retailers Turn Their Attention Toward Teens

Mass-market retailers hope these customers and the products they peruse via social networks will add more fuel to the current surge in beauty sales.

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NEW YORK — Nine-year-old Megan Dudek posts her latest nail art creations on Instagram for her friends to see. Eighteen-year-old Cassidy Gray scopes out YouTube tutorials for makeup tips.

Mass-market retailers hope these customers and the products they peruse via social networks will add more fuel to the current surge in beauty sales. To court young shoppers, merchants are looking for trendier, youth-oriented items from not only niche marketers, but the big brands, too. Some of the hottest items include nail polish and design kits, temporary hair color and lip gloss.

Young customers, ages eight through 18, taught by tutorials on Facebook and YouTube or schooled with videos triggered by Quick Response codes, are credited with helping drive a 3.4 percent in facial cosmetics sales and an astounding 17.5 percent rise in nail volume for the 52-week period ended Dec. 30, according to SymphonyIRI Group.

“Big-box stores have attacked specialty retailers in the teen market,” said industry consultant Allan Mottus. “[The number] of kids using nail and other makeup products is growing.”

Kali Sharp and sister Morgan Chacos have created a makeup line called EyeDoll Chatter containing no talcs, dyes or parabens aimed at the tech-savvy generation. “The tween market is so popular because all of the kids have smartphones and can ‘like’ products on Facebook or share on Instagram,” said Sharp.

The NPD Group noticed an uptick in teen spending last summer after a period of stabilization. Teens were shelling out an average of $12.50 last July, up $1.50 from the same month tracked in 2009. Kids spend not only their own funds, but influence the buying habits of parents, and it estimated that these factors combined result in annual spending power tallying $240 billion. Unlike parents, who have necessities and don’t always buy the cutting-edge styles, Allen Ash, vice president of Almar Sales Co., said kids have discretionary income and are motivated by fashion.

Dovetailing with the renewed interest in tween and teens is the 40th anniversary of perhaps the most iconic youth brand — Bonne Bell’s Lip Smacker. “This year, to celebrate Lip Smacker’s 40th birthday, we’re launching a number of initiatives to thank girls, moms and grandmothers around the world for the decades of loyalty to our brand,” said Buddy Bell, chief executive officer of Lip Smacker’s parent company Aspire Brands.

The celebrations intended to drive shoppers to stores include limited collectible flavors, a 30 Days of Flavor campaign with a prize a day in May, print advertising reinforcing the quality and safety of Lip Smacker, a major social media push and the launch of 40 new flavors.

Bonne Bell once had the tween and teen audience to itself, but it’s been joined by a host of others hoping to attract free-spending girls, including value-priced Wet ‘n’ Wild, Hello Kitty and new players such as Jesse’s Girl, EyeDoll Chatter and Jackie Fame. Retailers also credit major brands with discovering the power of the puberty set with launches of their own such as Maybelline’s Baby Lips and Revlon’s Nail Art Expressionist (a nail color with a skinny brush to create nail art). L’Oréal was also singled out for its new Preference Wild Ombrés hair kit. This isn’t the first time teens were turned to bolster volume. Twenty years ago, youthful lines burst onto the market, such as Jane Cosmetics (which is relaunching this May under new owners), Caboodles, Fun cosmetics and Townley, bringing glitter and whimsical packaging. Retailers created tween-teen departments with special signage. Stores aimed at young girls flourished, such as Club Libby Lu, and Claire’s became teen-girl beauty heaven. Unfortunately, discount and drugstore retailers found the footage wasn’t productive enough — the victim of aspirational shoppers who didn’t want to be in a “teen” department as well as the turnoff the environment presented to mature shoppers. That’s especially critical to drug chains where women 35-plus comprise a big component of shopper demographics. Some lines also were the victims of backlash from parents who thought the colors and products were “too mature” for young customers. This time retailers and manufacturers vow to avoid those mistakes. They are linking to social media, merchandising the youth items on endcaps and touting fashion-driven rather than gimmick products.

“We are trying to do colors and trend merchandise that is high end and not gimmicky like the cell phones [of years ago] where you opened them and saw the colors,” said Jesse Lawrence, president of Jesse’s Girl Cosmetics. A case in point is a new nail product that produces a texture look that keeps it competitive with new OPI styles, but in young colors and at a lower price.

Bell added that chains are tuned into quality to retain young shoppers. “Retailers are just starting to suffer the aftermath from allowing infiltration of poorer quality, China-manufactured brands into their stores,” he said. “These brands come and go every day, but Lip Smacker has remained a trusted staple in the lives of girls and moms for 40 years. Despite its low-cost competition, Lip Smacker has never lost sight of the importance of the tween- teen market (including the parental gatekeeper) and refuses to compromise the high quality of its products.”

Buyers said they don’t need special tween-teen areas within their planograms. “You can target that group without resetting the store. A lot of lines have products that appeal to that group,” said a top merchant for a larger drugstore chain. “For example in Maybelline you have Baby Lips, Fit Me and Rocket Lashes.”

Chains have special lines that they feel reach young women, but also those who want to stay on fashion. Wal-Mart’s Hard Candy is one example, and JulieG nail color at Rite Aid is another. As far as outreach, Rite Aid has its Glam Camp promotion for teens, which includes a model search and sampling via social media campaign.

The impact of social media — Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest in particular —provide a benefit to the mass market because girls can easily learn about products and makeup applications then go to the store to procure what they need to duplicate the look. “They are savvy, so ads don’t impress them as much,” Ash said.

Since they learn on their own, they don’t require in-store help, which can favor mass stores. They also like to buy at prices they feel comfortable with or that their parents are willing to allocate. They also don’t need the advice of in-store beauty consultants, which favors mass over department or specialty stores, experts said.

“We just brought some of the top bloggers to our headquarters to make videos of our products,” said Lawrence, who added QR codes on products that will trigger the tutorials.

Jackie Fame is a unique company hoping to build a beauty brand based off of a social media site created by two young boys — Zachary and Joshua Swauger — after their parents wouldn’t let them on Facebook. The site, jfame.com, has games, content and photo-sharing. According to Kurt Swauger, the duo’s dad, the site has surpassed 10 million members.

“What’s interesting is that we find kids spend 11 minutes on the site on average, versus an average of 2.1 minutes on Facebook,” he said.

An offshoot of the site is a line of personal care products under the Jackie Fame logo. The line debuted at last summer’s ECRM meeting and with buyer input has been redesigned with new packaging and a unisex fragrance and positioning. A deal is in the works with a music management firm for artists to tweet about the brand, which is shortly launching in a major retailer. A reality show featuring the boys is also currently in preproduction.

The sister team behind EyeDoll Chatter sees demand from spas for their products, which are created for young girls, as proof there’s opportunity at mass. A six-pack size of its scented and shimmery kits has been pared back to a three-pack that can be merchandised and priced better for discount and drugstores.

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