NEW YORK--Max Factor is borrowing a sell-through tactic from department store brands. Starting next month, the company will distribute a counter tester unit, called the Cosmetician Counter Sampling Kit, to mass retailers who employ beauty advisers. The sampling unit will hold a broad range of Max Factor products that consumers will be able to try. The cosmetician will then offer beauty advice on application techniques and shade selections. Accounts without cosmeticians will be offered a sampling program with trained personnel to hand out trial sizes of lipsticks and foundations in the stores. "We have found that the mass market typically lacks the sampling opportunities that department stores and direct-sell companies, such as Avon and Mary Kaye, offer," said John Devine, business development manager at Procter & Gamble for the chain drug industry. "[Product testing] is an important part of the cosmetics industry. We'd like to see what kind of impact we have in the mass market through similar programs. This will also give us the opportunity to let customers know that the relaunched Max Factor has significantly improved its packaging and formulas," he added. The relaunch, initiated in May 1993, was completed last May. "This has been a continuous effort for us," Devine said. "We started by rolling out new products and packaging and are now entering the trial phase." Devine projected that the new sampling kits would reach a minimum of 3,000 of Factor's 25,000 doors before the holiday season. The company plans to run the program through June, and intensify sampling efforts during the holiday season. "We feel that the displays do require a certain amount of maintenance if they are going to remain effective selling tools," Devine said. "If you look at the fragrance business, the first thing to disappear off displays are the testers. But more important, having a cosmetician on hand allows them to help and advise customers on the right products for them." While P&G executives declined to comment on sales figures, industry sources estimated that this year Max Factor was expecting a 10 to 15 percent volume increase, boosting annual results to between $180 million and $185 million. While the kits are in-store, they are expected to stimulate sales by 12 to 15 percent, sources said. The other sampling effort is expected to boost store sales by around 10 percent. "I think the tester is very nice," said Sheri Ralston, cosmetics buyer for Thrifty-PayLess, Wilsonville, Ore. "It's a great start for them. This is a unique way of sampling in the mass market." "The tester sounds like it will probably help Factor sell a lot of product," said Naomi Germano, cosmetics and fragrance buyer of Harmon Discount Stores, Cedar Grove, N.J. "The big complaint out there is that consumers can't try things. It might be a problem, though, for people to find the counter space for it in addition to the space they already have with their wall." The Max Factor International Cosmetician Counter Sampling Kit will feature 10 shades of High Definition Perfecting Makeup, 10 shades of Colour & Light Makeup, eight shades of Pan-Stik makeup, 12 shades of Lasting Color Lipstick, 11 Shades of Moisture Rich Lipstick, four shades of High Definition Lipcolor, eight shades of High Definition Lipliner, 10 shades of Eye Designer Shadow Liner, one shade of Erase Precise Concealer, one shade of High Definition Compact Makeup and one shade of Colour & Light Pressed Powder. While customers will not be able to directly sample the company's three different mascaras--High Definition, S-T-R-E-T-C-H and 2000 Calorie--factices will be displayed so consumers can see the differences in the shapes of the mascara brushes. According to Devine, the shape of the mascara brush is one of the main reasons a woman chooses one product over another. Factor tested the trial-size sampling program several times in "several thousand doors collectively" in its last fiscal year--from July 1993 to June 1994, Devine said. "We have never done anything of this magnitude and the results have so far shown us that this is a good investment for us and for retailers," he said. "It definitely stimulated measurable category growth." Max Factor has also stepped up its sampling efforts through coupon offers and packets in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Allure and Mademoiselle, Devine said. In March issues, a coupon offered a free lipstick with any Factor purchase. April magazines carried packets of the company's High Definition foundation, and in June issues, there were four $1-off coupons: one for lipstick, one for foundation, one for mascara and one that applied to the purchase of two nail enamels. In September issues, the company will feature a $5-off coupon for a foundation with a mascara purchase. "Sampling gives us the opportunity to get consumers involved in risk-free trial," Devine said. "These offers also allow us to help retailers move multiple pieces at one time, since there is usually more than one product involved in each sampling effort."
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