By  on March 18, 2010

LOS ANGELES — About two-thirds of Americans shop at Wal-Mart, but Alisa Marie Beyer, founder of research and branding firm The Benchmarking Co., said during a Beauty Industry West meeting that brands still do not grasp how much the big-box giant and its customers transform the beauty and personal care retail landscape.

“If 200 million people are doing something every week, we better know what it is,” she said, speaking March 9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Los Angeles about her new report, “Women & Wal-Mart — Seeing Through the Eyes of the Beauty and Personal Care Shopper.” “What’s happening within the walls of Wal-Mart is affecting your customer…even if she’s not there.”

Based on research of more than 2,300 women nationwide ages 18 to 60-plus, Beyer went on to bust myths about Wal-Mart shoppers. They are proud patrons (70 percent tell others they shop there), have positive experiences at the retailer (90 percent say they enjoy Wal-Mart shopping) and go frequently (as many as one in two women head to the retailer weekly and spend 40 minutes or more per shopping trip).

“She loves Wal-Mart,” said Beyer, referring to customers of the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, about 85 percent of whom are women, typically 30- to 35-year-old mothers with 2.2 kids, a dog and a strict budget. “She’s happy to be at Wal-Mart. She goes there because she feels good about it.”

Wal-Mart’s beauty and personal care aisles are popular destinations. About 73 percent of research participants shop for beauty and personal care products at Wal-Mart, and 51 percent always have purchased those products at the retailer. Low prices are king at Wal-Mart, and 60 percent of those surveyed shop for beauty and personal care because they believe Wal-Mart has the best prices.

Due to the recession, Beyer said of Wal-Mart beauty and personal care customers, “She’ll never, never think of money the same way again.…If we are not talking value to her, we will be lost.”

Wal-Mart customers are stocking up on recognizable beauty and personal care brands for their families. Some 72 percent reported shopping at Wal-Mart for hair care and styling products, 72 percent for personal cleaning items such as soap and 69 percent for oral care. The top personal care brands they said they purchased are Dove (45 percent), Suave (42 percent) and Olay (39 percent). The top skin and color cosmetics brands they cited are Cover Girl (48 percent), Olay (46 percent) and Maybelline (44 percent). Wal-Mart shoppers are confused about organic and natural products, and 70 percent said they won’t pay more for them.

Even though Wal-Mart is enormous, around 50 percent of those studied by Beyer couldn’t find the beauty brands they wanted, and women purchase almost 50 percent of their beauty and personal care merchandise elsewhere. That figure is too high for Wal-Mart, and Beyer said the retailer is actively working to capture more of consumers’ skin care and color cosmetics dollars. For example, she mentioned she has been asked to help the retailer develop a natural skin care line.

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