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Mass-Market Beauty Retailers Ready for Last-Minute Push

Mass retailers expect big things from shoppers who procrastinate.

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NEW YORK — Mass retailers expect big things from shoppers who procrastinate.

This story first appeared in the December 21, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Drugstores and discount stores traditionally generate most of their holiday sales in the final days as consumers scramble to complete their lists, said Joe Magnacca, president of daily living products and solutions at Walgreen Co.

With all eyes and hopes on Super Saturday, retailers such as Target, Rite Aid, Wal-Mart, CVS and Walgreens are putting their best efforts forth these final days with a plan to hammer home value.

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Both Target and Wal-Mart promoted a price-matching strategy that included online merchants. Rite Aid came out swinging early with fragrance deals including buy one, get another 50 percent off for its Wellness+ loyalty card members. At Duane Reade’s upscale Look Boutiques, the chain featured eye-catching values — including a $24.99 Rihanna Rebelle fragrance gift set — within the pages of its glossy Look Book. Duane Reade benefited from an appearance by Olympian Dara Torres, who is a brand ambassador for AmLactin, at a bustling store not far from Rockefeller Center, with crowds forming as samples spilled into the beauty department.

Walgreens broadened its approach to gift giving, as did several of its peers. Walgreens’ 12 Days of Beauty effort, which promotes a different products during the 12 days leading up to Christmas, included Crest WhiteStrips, Wet ‘n’ Wild Fergie Nail Color and the Mariah Carey Lollipop fragrance.

Target stationed Boots advisers in its beauty departments to welcome shoppers. “This holiday season, our bath and body, fragrance, value cosmetics and nail-color offerings are most popular,” said a Target Corp. spokesman. “Exclusive fragrance sets from Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, as well as cosmetics from E.l.f., are also performing very well. Nail color continues to drive sales this season.”

In fact, buyers said nail is the main sales driver this season. Kiss Product’s Grace Tallon, senior vice president of market, said the nail-art category rises almost 90 percent in sales during the holiday season versus the prior month, driven by products such as Kiss Nail Dress, Kiss Nail Sticker and Kiss Nail Artist Paint Kits. “These items are perfect holiday gifts and stocking stuffers,” she said.

This year, the category will get a boost from gel nail kits. “Gel nail kits are absolutely selling for Christmas,” said Barry Shields, the marketing manager for Innovative Beauty Group, which produces Red Carpet Manicure.

Beyond nails, retailers said both fragrance sets and color blockbusters are more popular than the last three years when shoppers pinched pennies opting for single sizes. “Gift sets have often provided a somewhat stress-free purchase for the shopper to get in and out of the madness that surrounds shopping during the holiday season,” said Karen Grant, vice president and senior global industry analyst at The NPD Group. “And it’s not just fragrance anymore. Sets are now among the hottest areas in makeup and skin care, too.”

E.l.f. Cosmetics introduced several color kits this year. “Sales across the board are very strong, up high double digits over last year,” said Joey Shamah, chief executive officer of E.l.f. “We’ve been really successful this year introducing higher price point and value sets with a high-end packaging feel and the customer has really responded.”

Price was a bit less of an issue in the personal care aisle, too. Yes To Inc. cofounder Ido Leffler said this holiday season has marked a return to giving, regardless of the price point. “In past years we’ve seen people holding back a little and this year people just wanted to give, especially with all that is going on in world,” he said, adding that the recently launched Yes To hair-care line has also been a strong performer leading up to the holidays. “The more you can show to people the better and that doesn’t mean it has to be the most expensive thing. Here we do stocking stuffers in the months leading up to Hanukkah and Christmas, and we are definitely seeing that this will be one of our most record-breaking months.”

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