Kiss Products Flirts With False Lashes

It's a sure sign the beauty business is improving when manufacturers start branching out.

NEW YORK — It is another sure sign the beauty business is improving when manufacturers start branching into other categories.

When Kiss Products started getting requests from major retailers, such as Wal-Mart, to branch into the artificial eyelash business, Kiss director of marketing Grace Tallon knew it could be an opportunity. “Stars, especially young stars, have helped fuel the trend,” Tallon explained.

Kiss is best known for nailing down the lion’s share of the artificial nail care category where its sales in drugstores alone jumped almost 10 percent last year, according to data from SymphonyIRI Group.

With its nail business clicking, Kiss turned to eyes, a category enjoying robust growth in the mass market. According to ACNielsen data for the 52 weeks ended Dec. 25, for food, drug and mass (including Wal-Mart), artificial eyelash sales rose almost 7 percent to $46.5 million (outpacing overall eye product gains of 4.5 percent).

While many women are seeking lash accelerators or growth serums, there’s a large portion flocking to fakes. The false eyelashes could be worn daily or for special occasions. “Retailers are focused on eyelashes,” said Tallon, who added major chains want to round out the offerings available on the market as far as price points and application techniques. The clear market leader is Ardell, but there are also artificial lashes produced by Markwins International under the Wet ‘n’ Wild logo as well as imported offers.

Industry experts said Wal-Mart in particular is driving a move in eyelashes as it seeks to dominate many beauty categories.

Faced with a need to make its lashes different, Tallon said Kiss looked at innovations in its nail business. Kiss innovated artificial nail application with the concept of a handle on each nail to assist with placing the artificial nail on the nail bed. The handle especially eased the process when the user was applying with her weaker hand. That idea has been adapted with a patent-pending twist to artificial eyelashes. Instead of a handle in the case, a string has been threaded through the lashes so that once glued in place, the user can pull the string through to complete the application. “This helps because people aren’t as dexterous, especially when they can’t see what they are doing,” said Tallon. She hopes the ease of applying will convert even more women to false lashes. Kiss will support the product with social media, digital and increased public relations. With more and more women seeking help videos on the Internet, Kiss thinks informational videos will help teach women how to apply lashes.

Prices start around $3.99, with the glue sold separately. There are individual stock-keeping units plus a multipack. The products are currently rolling out to Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy, Wal-Mart and other mass merchants. The initial styles are traditional, but Tallon is getting more requests for exotic lashes with feathers and glitter. Kiss hopes to add seasonal promotions for holidays, especially Halloween.

Branching into lashes helps Kiss get incremental dollars in the mass market to augment the nail business. To keep its nail business fresh, the company also added its version of the minx look with its new Nail Dress kit under its Broadway Nails banner. Priced at $5.49, the styles are stickers that are easily applied and easily peeled off in a variety of fashion looks. “What’s nice is you can change your look quickly and there’s very little damage to nails,” said Tallon. She also hopes the kits could entice more women to experiment with artificial nails.

Retailers have also encouraged Kiss to expand into other businesses, including brows, where again the company has looked to bring concepts not available from other brands such as a combination tinted brow gel and pencil duo. “We know we have to provide something different to get in the department,” Tallon explained.

Last year, Kiss initiated the first-ever television campaign behind its artificial nails that retailers said generated interest in the category.