By  on July 29, 2005

NEW YORK — Old Navy will sail into the personal care business this fall with Kiss My Face. Old Navy's partnership with the niche natural products company marks the latest move by the retailer's parent company, Gap Inc., to recruit outside beauty firms to develop its personal care business.

Last week, Old Navy's sister divisions, Gap and Banana Republic, inked an exclusive agreement with Inter Parfums to design and manufacture fragrance and personal care products under the two brand names. Previously, Gap Inc. had developed its personal care businesses in-house.

"Personal care products are a natural extension for us," said Old Navy's executive vice president of merchandising, Sheryl Clark, echoing a statement last week from Gap Inc. chief executive officer and president Paul Pressler, referring to the Inter Parfums deal.

Clark continued, "They are a great way to add fun to the store, pump up innovation and extend our brand."

Under the terms of its partnership with Old Navy, Kiss My Face has developed a co-branded body care collection called OnBody with the tag line, "Obsessively Natural by Kiss My Face." The line's bright green packaging, replete with an illustration of blades of grass, overshadows the Old Navy logo, which is found in the lower right corner. Clark said the two companies worked together on mapping out a branding strategy and determining which brand ought to take center stage. In the end, explained Clark, because Old Navy had sought the beauty firm for its expertise in personal care, the company decided to magnify the Kiss My Face brand.

"The brand gives Old Navy legitimacy in personal care," noted Clark. Kiss My Face's natural bent bumps up the kitsch factor for the retailer's core customers — young adults, moms in particular, and teenagers.

"When we were approached by Old Navy to create this line, it made perfect sense," said Bob MacLeod, co-founder and co-owner of Kiss My Face. "We both share the same goals and we try to achieve them with honesty, humor and style."

Old Navy dabbled in the beauty arena in the late Nineties, introducing a smattering of items, such as body care, lipstick and nail lacquers, under the Old Navy moniker. After inconsistent merchandising and sales, Old Navy exited the category, noted industry consultant Allan Mottus."Now, we are really hooked into what the customer wants," said Clark, noting that the principal lesson learned from the retailer's first beauty endeavor was to align with an expert.

Old Navy first approached Kiss My Face with the concept in late October. The company, which began selling homemade vegetable-based soap from the back of a Volkswagen in 1981, currently sells its 200 products in 10,000 doors globally. While the firm would not comment on sales, industry sources estimate the company's sales for 2005 will near $75 million, a 27 percent increase over last year.

Old Navy's 850 stores will significantly pad Kiss My Face's store distribution. The big win for the privately held firm is that the deal will place Kiss My Face in heavily trafficked retail outlets without any surrounding competition, noted Herbie Calves, director of marketing for Kiss My Face.

Old Navy will merchandise the OnBody collection on stand-alone display units, some 8 feet by 8 feet. They will be located at the store's front entrance, behind the retailer's "Item of the Week" display. In locations that also include maternity sections, Old Navy may opt for a second OnBody display. While the details of the unit have not been finalized, Clark noted that Old Navy's newly hired head of nonapparel design, Shayne Hart, insisted on outfitting the display with product testers. Hart, known unofficially at Old Navy as "the vice president of cool," will assume the newly created position Aug. 8. His past experience includes a post at The Studio at Fred Segal.

Old Navy expects to roll out the collection chainwide by late October. The OnBody assortment will include four fragrance collections, namely Green Tea & Mint, White Chocolate & Orange, Pear & White Tea and Lavender & Sandalwood. Each scent collection includes a body moisturizer, shower gel, body scrub, self-foaming hand soap, soy candle, bar soap and lip balm. The line's price points range from a $2 lip balm to $10 for a soy candle. Six gift sets also will be available, and will range from the $5 Lip Balm Trio to the $25 Daily Therapy Set, a kit that includes a foaming soap, moisturizer, body scrub and shower gel.Old Navy will promote OnBody to its customers through its circular, bag-stuffing coupon program, in-store radio and direct-mail efforts. To heighten awareness going into the holiday selling season, between Thanksgiving and Christmas Old Navy will dispatch a dedicated salesperson to the display each Saturday to promote sampling and trial.

Neither company would comment on sales, but industry sources expect OnBody to generate $25 million in first-year retail sales.

Kiss My Face, which sells products across nearly all personal care categories, from toothpaste to hair care, already is churning out ideas for spring and summer collections, as well.

"It's still intriguing to us that a company as large as Old Navy was innovative enough to partner with a company as small as Kiss My Face," said MacLeod. "It's a great thing for the natural products industry. It will bring mass market consumers to the category."

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