NEW YORK — Seeking a niche in the crowded mass-market beauty business, Cosmetic 2000 will introduce a new line of cosmetics for women of color.

The 80-stockkeeping-unit collection, called Uptown Colors, will be launched at the upcoming Efficient Promotional Planning Session Conference, to be held Feb. 24-27 in Orlando. Cosmetic 2000 joins about 90 vendors who’ll meet representatives from 100 chains in one-on-one meetings.

Admitting that buyers see too much of the same merchandise, Cosmetic 2000’s president Howard Brauner said the company engaged in extensive consumer research to uncover what is missing in the mass market. The determination was that the business still lacks a quality ethnic cosmetics line.

Cosmetic 2000 executives know a thing or two about ethnic cosmetics. The chairman of Cosmetic 2000, based in Nyack, N.Y., is Stanley Acker, who helped bring a current ethnic line, Black Radiance, to the market several years ago. According to Brauner, Acker has put his "touch" on Uptown Colors to make it the right product line for today’s economy and market needs.

According to Brauner, Uptown Colors offers value, but it is not budget priced. The suggested retail price ranges from $2.99 to less than $8. Uptown Colors includes lip, face, foundations, eye and nail. It will compete with existing brands such as Black Opal, Milani, Black Radiance and Posner, as well as shades from general-market brands. "We know we are right on target with our color palette and our packaging," said Brauner, a former executive with CCA Industries who took over as president of Cosmetic 2000 last March. Uptown Colors is aimed at women aged 25 to 54. "We have purse appeal and an excellent payoff in our formula," he said.

The company hopes to have Uptown Colors ready to ship by the third quarter. The line is a combination of packaged and open-stock products. Cosmetic 2000 would not comment on sales projections, but industry sources said retail sales could hit $5 million to $6 million within a year.

Brauner believes that the changing complexion of American female consumers could mean more stores need to add a variety of palettes to the beauty mix. The company plans to work with retailers to merchandise Uptown Colors either in cosmetics or even in an ethnic set.The marketing campaign, according to Brauner, will consist of "grassroots" strategies such as product sampling, local events and neighborhood promotions.

Women of color are often turning to doors other than drug, food or mass stores for their beauty needs. Many opt for beauty supply stores, direct marketers or department stores. MAC, in particular, has been a hit with women of color. Manufacturers estimate that women of color spend more than $5 billion on all health and beauty needs with only about $1.6 billion of that going to mass-market cash registers.

That’s bad news for mass marketers, who need to build the loyalty of women of color. The ethnic population is expanding at a rate well ahead of that of the U.S. Caucasian population. By 2005, according to the U.S. Census, the African-American population is expected to reach 37.8 million, up 23.9 percent from 1990; Hispanics will number 35.7 million, up 58.3 percent, and the Asian-American population will reach 14.6 million by 2005.

According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, the spending of African-Americans jumped 73 percent between 1990 and 1999 to $533 billion. It has always been found that spending on health and beauty care among ethnic consumers is higher than the general market. Hispanic spending power, according to Selig, expanded 84.4 percent to $383 billion.

"We know this customer likes shopping mass stores and we believe we are on the right track with this line," said Brauner.

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