NEW YORK — Lately, more and more categories have been knocking on beauty’s door.

Retailers, faced with only mediocre sales gains in cosmetics, have yielded real estate traditionally allocated to cosmetics to other categories.

Many of the other categories are not as stockkeeping-unit intensive as cosmetics and have more rapid inventory turns. That means retailers can get more gross profit per square foot on categories other than pegged cosmetics.

Additionally, footage has been freed up by the exit of Olay cosmetics as well as space reductions on major brands. Instead of adding another cosmetics brand, some chains are experimenting with alternative merchandise.

Walgreens, Rite Aid and Kmart are among the chains importing more nontraditional beauty items into the cosmetics department to spur additional sales. The categories presented in beauty, a high-profile department, now include sun care, hair care implements, spa appliances, implements, makeup removers and teeth whiteners.

There’s been a blurring of skin care and sun care with facial moisturizers, adding sun protection factors and sun care-touting skin care properties.

Sun care today has become more fashion oriented. Most products do more than just protect against the sun. A case in point is Ocean Potion’s Protective Lotions with Parsol 1789. Ocean Potion actually puts the word "antiaging" on the protective lotions — wording more typically found on skin care. "All of Ocean Potions are enriched with antioxidant vitamins. These formulas help prevent against skin damage and aging," said Leslie Anstey, vice president of marketing for Ocean Potion’s parent Sun & Skin Care Research, Inc.

The influx of self-tanners has also made tanning more stylish. Just as bronzers are part of cosmetics, self-tanners have also narrowed the gap between a "cosmetic" and a sun care product.

Retailers are glowing over the incremental sales sun care delivers, especially in summer months. Sales of suntan lotions and oils are on the rise, growing 2.3 percent for the 52 weeks ended December 29, 2002, excluding Wal-Mart, according to Information Resources, Inc.

With sun care taking a bigger role in women’s overall beauty habits, chains are launching new sun care items on display areas designated for new color launches. Eckerd, for example, positions sun care on an end of aisle display near cosmetics.The same promotional displays in cosmetics are also getting filled up with more hair care appliances such as devices to straighten or braid hair. Appliances were once relegated to space in the housewares department. Now chains ranging from Wal-Mart and Target to CVS and Walgreens are adding appliances to the cosmetics department. During Christmas, appliances were merchandised near fragrances at CVS and Walgreens. Leading suppliers include Conair and Igia, who offer appliances that help consumers, especially young girls, achieve current popular hair styles.

"Hair styling appliances are very hot," said Lyn Kirby, president of Ulta, which devotes an entire aisle of its beauty department to hair care tools.

Spa appliances are also starting to nudge into cosmetics. A spokeswoman for Rite Aid said spa appliances were among the most popular items for Christmas. Consumers want to recreate a spa environment in their homes with paraffin dips, massagers, manicure tools and rock waterfalls.

According to Kirby, spa appliances are attractive to retailers because they have high tickets and attractive gross margins.

Eye shadows and nail polishes are being joined on shelves by more implements and makeup-remover tools, including cotton balls. "Implements have high margins that really help the department," said William McMenemy, executive vice president of marketing for Del Laboratories, a leading implement supplier. Cotton balls and makeup-remover pads turn inventory almost nine times that of cosmetics, according to a spokesman for U.S. Cotton, maker of makeup removers.

Lipsticks are also getting a run for their money from tooth whiteners. The once very unsexy dental category has undergone a major revolution thanks to teeth whiteners such as Crest WhiteStrips and Colgate Simply White. According to IRI, sales of tooth powders and polishes expanded 118 percent for the 52-week period ended November 3, 2002, excluding Wal-Mart. Many merchants approach whiteners as they would a new cosmetic item. The products command end caps and floor displays in cosmetics. What’s more is that consumers don’t flinch at paying $35 for a box of whiteners. Crest WhiteStrips alone now total $153 million in annual retail sales.

Although retailers are happy to gain new sales from beauty’s real estate, cosmetics marketers are fighting for beauty’s turf. "If cosmetics space gets cut, you can’t get it back," lamented a former Revlon executive. "With cosmetics, you need a presence to make a statement. We hate to see a loss in space."

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