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Critical Mass: Bongo Beauty to Launch Exclusively at Kmart

At a time when merchants are scrambling to court teens, Kmart has a fashionable leg up on the competition with a new beauty collection.

NEW YORK — At a time when merchants are scrambling to court teens, Kmart has a fashionable leg up on the competition with a new beauty collection under the Bongo brand.

This story first appeared in the May 17, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Bongo Beauty collection — an exclusive assortment of fragrance, body mists, body lotion, nail and lip items packaged in on-trend colors and patterns, such as leopard prints — is currently shipping to all 1,220-plus Kmart stores.

Alexandra Douglass, Iconix Brand Group fashion director, said that extending the fashion-forward Bongo label into beauty is a “perfect addition.” She added, “Bongo is the number-one junior brand in Kmart, and consumers see cosmetics as an accessory, so they buy items to match apparel.”

Industry sources think Bongo beauty could drum up first-year sales of $3 million to $5 million.

Known in the Eighties for its denim, Bongo was reintroduced three years ago by Iconix in Sears and Kmart. Thanks in part to high visibility spokespeople — currently “Pretty Little Liars” star Lucy Hale trumpets the brand — Bongo was successful enough to warrant the addition of more than 15 other categories, including handbags, swimwear, belts, sunglasses and shoes. A new celebrity spokesperson will be introduced in the fall, according to Dari Marder, chief marketing officer at Iconix.

The brand’s strong following with girls ages 14 to 25 — its has a 72 percent brand awareness rating, according to Iconix — paved a path for cosmetics and fragrances.

“It’s not uncommon to grab three or four beauty items to match outfits and stick in your purse,” said Douglass, who added young girls are accustomed to finding cosmetics at specialty stores like H&M or Forever 21. “We thought it fills an opportunity in Kmart’s cosmetics.”

Prices range from $2.99 for lip items to $14.99 for fragrance. There is also a makeup bag priced at $12.99.

Kmart will feature Bongo’s beauty assortment on an endcap display, which will change seasonally. “We think the cosmetics department is perfect because that is where she goes when she’s thinking about beauty,” said Douglass. Iconix hopes if all goes well the line could secure in-line display space.

To stand out among Kmart’s beauty lineup — which includes Revlon, CoverGirl, Wet ‘n’ Wild, NYC, Milani, Maybelline, Rimmel London and L’Oréal — Bongo offers edgy packaging and whimsical product names, such as Mint Chip Madness nail color or Play It Sweet fragrance. Nail will most likely be one of the first purchases, executives predicted. “The nail explosion is great, and we want to be a part of it. It is a revolution with everything from women putting on pale pink to experimenting with nail art,” said Douglass.

More than just the colors and scents, Douglass singled out the packaging. “It is fun, so we think girls will be proud to pull it out of their bags. It is fast fashion. You can run in and buy. And at these prices you can purchase multiple colors,” she said. While fragrance and color cosmetics will come first, Douglass didn’t rule out extending into more categories, such as tinted moisturizers.

To help tap the signed-in demographic group, Bongo’s beauty launch will be promoted through social media outlets, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, said Marder. “We will engage consumers through exclusive sweepstakes and giveaways,” she added. Bongo Beauty will be featured in national publications as well as online and in-store signage at Kmart.

Iconix’s portfolio includes other beauty lines, such as the exclusive Kohl’s Candie’s collection, as well as Madonna’s Truth or Dare and Ed Hardy fragrances. Other notable brands that are part of Iconix include everything from Jay-Z’s Rocawear to London Fog.

Iconix’s timing is on target, as retailers are once again discovering the spending power of young customers. Although Kmart once offered an exclusive tween-teen line called Love Always Magenta, it was phased out, leaving a hole for a youth exclusive, which Douglass sees as an opportunity.