By  on January 11, 2008

An almost forgotten brand is making its way into mass stores, more than a decade after it was conceived for salons.

OPI Products Inc., the 26-year-old, independently owned nail lacquer company, has dusted off Nicole by OPI, a brand that was introduced to salons in 1997 to raise money for charity. OPI's Hungarian immigrant founders, Suzy Weiss-Fischmann and George Schaeffer, are aware of their success and are always looking at ways to give back.

"It was called 'Color With a Conscience,'" recalled Weiss-Fischmann of the beauty/charity initiative.

At its height, Nicole by OPI nail lacquers were sold in 75,000 salons across the country. But six years after its introduction, the line was pulled back.

"OPI was growing and we needed to focus on that," recalled Weiss-Fischmann. For 2007, industry sources estimate OPI generated $120 million in wholesale sales. The company's products — which include polishes, lipsticks, nail treatments, creams and pedicure products — are sold in more than 80 countries.

Last year, however, Weiss-Fischmann saw an opportunity in the mass sector, since "the consumer is always looking for new brands, even in Target or Wal-Mart." The former seemed a natural fit, she said, a retailer she described as "the hippest in the U.S."

Nicole by OPI nail lacquer entered Target in June, as a test, in 80 of its locations, with 21 shades on three shelves within traditional nail care. Items retailed for $7.99. Sales were successful, said Weiss-Fischmann, and by September the line was sold chainwide.

In December, another Nicole by OPI item, Nic's Sticks Paint & Go Nail Lacquer, entered Wal-Mart. Nic's Sticks are nail polish pens designed for on-the-go application. Nic's Sticks will enter Target in February, as well as Walgreens, Meijer and Longs. They retail for $6.99.

Weiss-Fischmann said Nicole by OPI shades are different from the OPI shades available in salons. Also, Nicole has been designed for use in either one or two coats; OPI shades are designed to be worn in two coats. Formulas do not contain DBP, toluene or formaldehyde.

"The Nicole shades are for someone with an attitude, who knows themselves and the kind of woman they are," Weiss-Fischmann said, adding that it was named after her now 22-year-old niece.The brand is not just dabbling in mass, either.

"Anything that OPI touches wants to be a huge impact. [We're] looking to be a major player," she said.

Nicole by OPI looks to go head-to-head with Coty Inc.'s recently acquired Sally Hansen brand, the market leader in nail care.

Weiss-Fischmann said she did not make sales projections for Nicole by OPI in 2008.

"We sat down to have a meeting this month and I said, 'Uh, I think we should meet in June.' We're just starting out. In six or eight months we'll have some numbers."

To let consumers know OPI has a brand at mass, the company is advertising in weekly publications such as Us Weekly, In Touch, Star, OK and Life & Style. OPI sales representatives plan to attend ECRM's cosmetics show later this month as well as NACDS's Marketplace show in June to further relationships with buyers.

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