By and and  on November 19, 2010

Next Friday, the promotional floodgates will swing open.

Mass merchants and their beauty vendors are trumpeting value with a spate of exclusive offerings, gift sets and eye-catching discounts designed to grab the holiday shopper early — disputing the old adage that beauty products don’t go on sale.

Drugstore chains, in the case of Duane Reade and CVS Pharmacy, are using their upscale beauty boutiques, which are embedded in many of their stores, as outposts to take direct aim at department stores — going so far as to borrow their tried-and-true gift-with-purchase sales tactic. And the offerings are enticing.

Beauty 360, an upscale boutique connected to select CVS Pharmacy locations, has a host of gift-with-purchase promotions planned. For instance, shoppers who spend $25 on any Bloom cosmetics product will receive a Make Up Essentials Bag, a $29.95 value. And those who buy $30 worth of Warren Tricomi hair care products will receive a Blow Dry Lotion, a $15 value. A purchase of any Cargo cosmetics item is rewarded with a choice of a free Boogie Nights Silver Eye Pencil or a Shimmer Pen, a $25 value.

The beauty boutique also is doling out a $25 Beauty 360 gift certificate with any purchase of $100 or more through Jan. 31. Holiday-themed open houses are planned in every Beauty 360 store on Nov. 26th and each Thursday in December, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Inside the traditional CVS beauty departments, the retailer is touting proprietary sets, including the Essence of Beauty All Occasion Tote, complete with a matching cosmetics bag, mini hand cream and body mist for $14.99, a $75 value, as well as the Essence of Beauty Luxury Slipper Set, which includes a foot scrub and lotion for $9.99, a $14 value.

CVS collaborated with brands to create a slew of promotional items. A sampling includes the Wet ‘n’ Wild Festive Flirt Nail Kit, which includes eight nail colors and a nail file for $4.99, a $17 value; the Burt’s Bees Tin Ornament with Beeswax Lip Balms for $9.99, a $15 value, and the $19.99 fragrance sampler boxes available in classics for her, celebrity for her and celebrity for him, with a $20 coupon for a full scent inside.

The metro New York pharmacy Duane Reade is emphasizing its Look Boutique departments over the holiday season. “Last year at this time, we had one Look Boutique. Now we have 12,” said Joe Magnacca, president of Duane Reade. The Look Boutique will drop a Holiday Beauty Book featuring premium brands, including Becca, Pop Beauty and Talika. The in-store boutique will also add new brands in December, including H20+ skin care and, in six stores, Roger & Gallet fragrances. Events are planned, as well, including Ramy eyebrow shaping services in all 12 boutiques and mini manicures in the Herald Square location. Within its traditional mass market assortment, Duane Reade is making a big push behind its proprietary jewelry and beauty brand, called Prevail, which launched in April with a hand sanitizer. Duane Reade is building Prevail into a beauty assortment. For instance, the drugstore’s holiday-theme newsletter, The Duane Reader, features Prevail nail polish, eye makeup remover, shower caps and color cosmetics kits. Referring to this month’s Duane Reader, Magnacca said, “This is the first time we are presenting Prevail as a brand.” Other exclusives he expects to perform well are Raw Essentials by model Carol Alt and Own lip plumper. Duane Reade plans to launch its holiday beauty book for Look Boutique — featuring gift sets, makeup, hair care and fragrance — on Nov. 26.

“We expect a stronger holiday season than last year,” said Magnacca. “It feels like people are spending again.”

Store checks at Walgreens, Rite Aid, ShopRite and Target also found holiday presentations in full swing.

Target, for example, has multiple holiday product displays, including a Target stocking-stuffer, which features a variety of items such as mascara two-packs and samplers of Pixi, NP Set, JK Jemma Kidd and Sonia Kashuk cosmetics. Another product display features national cosmetics gift sets and accessories — all less than $20, said a Target spokesman. Target also has a display of special fragrance gift sets and is leveraging highly visible marketing vehicles, across all categories including beauty, such as its Target weekly ad, catalogues, ads and in-store signings. is launching mobile access to its Christmas promotions, seasonal alerts and its GiftFinder service. Purchases can also be made directly from a mobile device via the Target iPhone or Android app, where scannable mobile coupons will be offered.

This year, Walgreens is pulling out all the stops with a holiday gift guide, which has a big focus on fragrance. Kina Guyton, Walgreens’ director of retail marketing, anticipates the Kim Kardashian fragrance as well as gift sets of Halle Berry Pure Orchid, Faith Hill True and Beyoncé Heat will sell briskly.

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