CREBEL TAILORED FOR NICHE APPEAL

Byline: Faye Brookman

NEW YORK--Cosmyl Nailtech found that a "one-size-fits-all" approach to the beauty business doesn't work.
After running into problems selling its Cosyml bath and skin care products in drug and department stores, the Columbus, Ga.-based company is launching a different line specifically created for the mass market.
The new brand, called Crebel Spa Perfection, is being shipped to a number of mass chains, including Eckerd Drug Company, based in Largo, Fla., Drug Emporium of Powell, Ohio, Ames Stores of Rocky Hill, Conn., and Target Stores of Minneapolis.
Crebel should be in about 8,000 drug and discount doors by the end of the year, according to Jordi Dalmau, president of the company, which developed both lines and also operates the Cosmyl Spa in Coral Gables, Fla.
Meanwhile, the pricier Cosmyl products will be phased out of discount and drugstores starting this month in favor of the Crebel offering, Dalmau said.
The Cosmyl line is sold in department stores such as Belk's of Charlotte, N.C., as well as at J.C. Penney Co. and Sears. Until now, the products had also been available in the mass market in chains like Thrift Drug of Pittsburgh and the Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores.
Wal-Mart, in fact, had been using Cosmyl as a way to enhance its image in those of its units that feature an expanded cosmetics department.
After the switch to Crebel, the only mass units to carry Cosmyl will be Thrift Drug's expanded stores, such as its unit in Princeton, N.J. Thrift will continue to sell the Cosmyl bath line, as well as Cosmyl's color cosmetics line.
The expanded Thrift stores, according to Dalmau, have trained cosmeticians and the clientele is appropriate for Cosmyl products. Thrift currently operates more than 30 of these upscale units.
Dalmau noted that Cosmyl encountered two obstacles when selling upscale products at mass stores. First, the department stores balked because they felt the dual distribution diminished the prestigious image of the line.
The other hurdle was that the price points were too high for the drug and discount store environment to register significant volume.
Although many fragrances are sold simultaneously in mass and class, the scents are secured by mass marketers via secondary sources. Very few cosmetics and bath and skin care lines have been able to successfully straddle the gap between discounters and upscale retailers.
So, rather than risk losing its upmarket distribution, Cosmyl decided to create a sister brand.
"We found we could provide the same department store quality at 50 percent of the price," said Dalmau.
The formulations for the two lines are very similar, he noted. What differs is the price, packaging and display options.
The Crebel bath and skin care line will be priced from $5.99 for a 2-oz. Exfoliating Facial Scrub to $8.99 for a 2-oz. Hydra-Cell Replenishing Creme. The lineup features other bath and skin care items like a Honey & Clay Balancing Mask, an Organic Sea Salt bath and an After Bath Splash.
Comparable Cosmyl items would retail for $12 to $16, said Dalmau.
He said he believes Crebel can bring in an even greater volume than its sister Cosmyl, which has an estimated wholesale volume of $5 million.
He would not make a specific sales projection, but industry sources estimate the Crebel line could ring up a first-year volume in excess of $10 million.
Without the aid of trained beauty advisers, Crebel will rely on a color-coding system on the packages to help customers decide which product they should buy to suit their skin type.
The packaging is designed to educate consumers in a self-service environment, Dalmau said.
Instead of an expensive one-on-one training program, Cosmyl has made training tapes available to teach beauty advisers about Crebel.
In addition, a description of the Cosmyl spa and information about the Cosmyl and Crebel products are inserted into the packaging of the mass and class products.
While the Cosmyl items had been put under glass by mass accounts such as Wal-Mart, Dalmau said, the plan is to put Crebel into an open stock set-up, a move he thinks will have a big impact on sales.
"We want to see it merchandised together--skin and bath--in the beauty department," he said, adding that he hopes retailers won't hide it under glass. "Too often in the mass market, there is no one there to get customers what they want when it is under glass."
Mass market-style counter, aisle and floor displays have also been devised for Crebel.
Mass market buyers have expressed an interest in Cosmyl's color cosmetics business, which has not been sold in the discount arena, except at the Thrift units.
For Sears, the Cosmyl color line has served as an upscale alternative to brands such as Ultima II or LancÖme, which the store does not stock.
Dalmau did not rule out a color extension to Crebel, saying, "We realize the need in the mass market for an upscale color cosmetics line and could have an introduction during 1995."
Many buyers also said that while they are impressed with Crebel's packaging and products, they wished they could still buy Cosmyl. Despite its high price point, Cosmyl had been a strong performer for many retailers.
Shirley Northrop, merchandise manager for cosmetics and fragrances at London Drugs Limited of Richmond, British Columbia, singled it out as one of her best niche products.
"Many women who have gone to spas recognize that Cosmyl has ingredients they used in spas. They buy it to pamper themselves," she said.
In today's mass market race to offer lines not sold by the competition, many considered Cosmyl a prestigious brand to offer.
"We really want to keep the Cosmyl line because it differentiates us from other stores that are all now adding bath," said one retailer who requested anonymity. "But Crebel looks just like Cosmyl and gives us a chance to sell an elegant product at a better price."
A competitor added that Cosmyl had not moved as fast for Wal-Mart as that chain had hoped.
"Crebel is more in the right price range," he added.
If the mass market accepts Crebel, it also opens the way for Cosmyl to further penetrate department stores and operators such as Penney's and Sears.
Cosmyl is one of the lines Sears is using in its retrofitted units to add more prestige to the bath department. Cosmyl is currently in about 700 Sears doors with its bath line and 125 stores with its color cosmetics offerings.
According to a Sears spokeswoman, Cosmyl is the chain's number-one performing bath line.
Cosmyl isn't the first company to create different products for diverse types of retailers. In 1992, Caswell-Massey created the Caswell-Massey II bath line for the mass market and Fashion Fair launched Ebone cosmetics for drug and discount markets.
Tisserand aromatherapy is currently being pulled from drug and discount distribution with a mass line in the works to replace it, and retailers have often cited L'OrÄal as the mass market answer to LancÖme.
Dalmau said he supports the idea of separate lines, and noted he doesn't think the Cosmyl and Crebel lines will cannibalize one another.
"You can have a Cadillac and a similar, less expensive car," he said. "The engine and the power train are the same--the outside is different. There are customers for both."

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