Critical Mass: Retailers Nurture Baby, Mommy Segments to Boost Sales

Chains including Ulta, Duane Reade, Wal-Mart and Walgreens are among those indicating baby and mom care is set to expand.

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NEW YORK — Baby care is the latest category crying for attention.

This story first appeared in the August 12, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

With retailers looking for new ways to plump sales in tough times, baby and mommy care is a department more want to nurture. Chains including Ulta, Duane Reade, Wal-Mart and Walgreens are among those indicating baby and mom care is set to expand, joining other emerging product classifications such as teen, premium skin care and do-it-yourself beauty as those getting more space in newly remodeled doors.

“We were so pleased to add the new category of mother and baby to our stores this summer. The category is in a majority of Ulta doors,” said Heather Holubek, senior buyer prestige skincare for Ulta. The anchor of Ulta’s program is Mustela, a 60-year old brand with a history of delivering dermo-cosmetic products to newborns, babies, children, mothers to be and new mothers.

“In creating the mother and baby category, we looked to brands that are highly respected and offer products that meet the needs of the pregnant customer and new mom as well as baby. Mustela certainly fit all of these criteria and we are delighted to offer its products to Ulta customers both in our stores and online at ulta.com,” added Holubek.

Following a 30-store test of Mustela’s 9 Months collection, Ulta has given the green light for a full rollout of Mustela. With the expansion of the brand in Ulta, shoppers will have access to an extensive array of maternity, stretch mark and baby care formulas clinical proven and dermatologically tested.

Duane Reade has also been successful with Mustela. Currently, Mustela is carried in Duane Reade within the maternity area. However, Duane Reade Look Boutiques will also be expanding mom and baby sections. Duane Reade’s parent Walgreens is expected to enlarge its offering for babies and moms, according to Shannon Petree, divisional vice president and general merchandise manager for beauty.

Ulta and Duane Reade are among the first to enrich baby and mom offerings beyond traditional mass lines such as Johnson & Johnson by adding upscale brands such as Mustela.

Other baby and mom lines are expected to follow such as Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl Mommy collection. Rite Aid has revamped its private label baby care under the Tugaboos name, and Navarro has Vida Mia targeted at its large Latino following and including baby care items. As drug chains look to bridge health, wellness and beauty, baby and mom care is becoming a category of interest.

Mustela is the lead vendor in Duane Reade’s Look Boutique, but the department will feature additional brands, according to Judy Carlo, Mustela managing director of U.S. and Canada.

“We envision a burgeoning future with mother and baby sections expanding to other selective retailers and even beyond our own brand,” said Carlo. She suggested Mustela can be the category leader and help retailers create an entire mom and baby care enclave within the store. “And because Mustela is the leader in this unique area of premium skin care, we are investing in a retail strategy that reflects this vision.”

To validate Mustela’s expertise, she cited a recent consumer study across the U.S. which concluded today’s consumer wants easy access to favorite brands and will cross channel shop for convenience. Prior to this rollout, Mustela was primary available in specialty stores such as Bluemercury, Giggle, upscale pharmacies and department stores — as well as online. Mustela plans to build awareness in the new departments with samples, gifts with purchase, online trial, in store communications and social networking.

What’s been unique about Mustela, according to Carlo, is the brand has kept its premium image while expanding into the outlets consumers desire to shop. In other words, just because Mustela is available in chain drugstores, shoppers don’t have a different image of the brand. “We have demonstrated that a premium brand can maintain its high-end positioning while extending accessibility for the added convenience of the changing consumer,” she said.

The newest product in the lineup is Mustela Stelatria Purifying Recovery Cream, which is backed with research showing it helps regenerate and restore skin and reduce appearance of scars. It hits shelves next month with a suggested retail of $18.50.

Celebrities rely on Mustela products with moms including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kerri Russell, Molly Ringwald, Rebecca Romijn, Tory Spelling, Denise Richards and Melissa Joan Hart among loyal users.

Baby care products exceed $400 million in food, drug and mass stores (excluding Wal-Mart), according to Symphony/IRI Group. Sales are almost equally divided among food, drug and mass — suggesting the channel that jumps out front in presentation could steal some share from competitors. While the National Center for Health Statistics reported a decline in the U.S. birth rate, retailers said they expect to see mothers spend more on their offspring and their own needs related to childbirth.

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