NEW YORK--As sometimes happens with the mature customer it was created for, Maybelline's Revitalizing skin care and cosmetics brand seems to be losing a little steam. The company said last week that its earnings in the third quarter, which ends today, will be off 31 percent, compared with last year, falling to 25 cents a share from 36 cents. The reason: slower-than-expected sales of Revitalizing, which got off to a quick start in November 1992, but has lagged since then. Nevertheless, retailers say they are satisfied overall with Revitalizing's performance to date and indicated they will stick with the line in anticipation of growth. Robert Hiatt, president and chief executive officer of the Memphis-based Maybelline, said it has taken longer than expected to implement the Revitalizing program, which includes a special fixture, in the nation's mass outlets. "It took a few months longer, and it is a little later than we would have liked," he said. "Where it is up and running, our feedback is that customers are very satisfied." Since most mass market stores reset their cosmetics peg walls only once or twice a year, some have not had the chance to properly insert Revitalizing into their planograms, buyers said. Hiatt said he expects shoppers who purchased trial sizes in the spring and summer to soon be returning to stores for full-size purchases. In addition, a new flight of television advertising recently started airing. Maybelline is spending an estimated $25 million or so this year to back the Revitalizing brand. Besides the complex in-store arrangement, buyers attributed Revitalizing's sluggish sales of late to an overall slowdown in color cosmetics business. "The things that are slow, like eye shadows, are slow for every manufacturer," said Steele Balkunas, buyer for Ike's of Memphis. Susan Grimshaw, buyer for Kmart Corp., agreed that all in all, the line has performed well. "We've been pleased and know Maybelline has aggressive advertising plans," she said. According to Maybelline, Revitalizing was introduced to lure customers from ages 35 to 54, an older segment than the company's traditional 18-to-34-year-old target. Strong early sales of the line encouraged Maybelline to expand into treatment last November. Prices range from $4.95 for a Matte Lip Color to $9 for a 2-oz. jar of Enhanced Moisture Cream. According to the most recent Nielsen report, Revitalizing has carved out a 3 percent share of total mass market cosmetics sales. "That's pretty good for such a short time," said Hiatt. Moving quickly out of the gate, Revitalizing reportedly hit $15 million at wholesale in 1993. With the addition of the skin care products, the brand was projected to jump to $35 million this year; but now, according to sources, that goal seems to have been too lofty, as sales have leveled off. Revitalizing's strong start, in fact, may have actually hurt the brand. Its success spawned a herd of competitors that have eroded some of its sales, including Revlon's Age Defying Makeup and Almay's Time-Off. In addition, some retailers had ordered aggressively from the Revitalizing collection and haven't yet needed to replenish their stock. "We could have been expecting too much. I bought three or four of every item per store, and cosmetics doesn't turn that fast," said Betty Hedgepath, buyer for Kerr Drug Stores in Raleigh, N.C. While the products aren't exactly flying out of stores, many chains added that Revitalizing is turning over faster than what had been in its shelf space. Many put Revitalizing in the spot that had been allocated to Clarion, a line discontinued by Procter & Gamble this year. "Maybe we just need to pare it back to be in line with sales," said a buyer with a small drug chain. Most buyers didn't fault Maybelline for acting too swiftly in adding new sku's, a problem that occurred with the company's Shine-Free line. "When you do something like this, you do it with the full presentation or not at all," said one retailer. Maybelline's strong track record, buyers said, is another reason they're sticking with the brand. "Revitalizing is not selling to the degree we had hoped for the space we gave it," said a source at a top drug chain. "But Maybelline is committed to the line and will spend what it takes to get it moving." Hiatt maintained that Revitalizing is bringing incremental business to mass market doors. "Thirty-seven percent of Revitalizing customers are those who previously shopped department stores. Before, they had to go to an upscale line like Estée Lauder," he said, adding that Revitalizing offers a more affordable option. In contrast, industry analyst Allan Mottus said the reverse has taken place, another possible explanation for Revitalizing's slowdown: "Department store prices have gone down dramatically. Revitalizing was trying to get baby boomers to trade down, but department stores came in and traded them back."
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