NEW YORK — A bit of Finland is coming to CVS drugstores.

Lumene, a well-known European skin care and cosmetics brand in Finland, is making its United States debut in select Northeast CVS stores in November. Other CVS stores nationwide will add the line later, with plans for about 2,400 of CVS’s 4,100 units to offer the upscale products by February 2004.

Lumene is indicative of a trend of premium skin care lines that are available in Europe testing the waters in mass stores in America. Vichy and Avene are also being sold in select doors in drugstore chains including Brooks and CVS as American women seek higher-quality skin care at drugstore prices.

The presence of upscale skin care also helps differentiate drug chains from other mass market competitors. CVS will be the exclusive retailer for Lumene in the United States.

CVS executives first spotted Lumene, which was launched in 1970, during an excursion through Europe. Lumene commands more than 25 percent of sales in Finland and is a leading brand in the 50 countries where it is sold, according to Chris Bodine, CVS’s executive vice president of merchandising and marketing.

Pointing to test results conducted by a third party, Lumene marketers contend Lumene products exceed the quality of Christian Dior, RoC, Nivea, L’Oréal and Vichy. Cheryl Mahoney, vice president of beauty care at CVS, said Lumene provides prestige quality skin care and cosmetics at a “shopper’s local drugstore.”

Industry sources estimate the entire 230-stockkeeping-unit collection could add sales of at least $15 million to CVS’s coffers.

“We really think it offers high quality at a good price,” said Janice Jacobs, director of brand development for CVS, during a briefing in New York about the line. Prices range from $3.99 for eye makeup items to $17.99 for firming skin care products with ingredients such as seaweed, soy and water lilies.

There are three segments of Lumene:skin, body and cosmetics. All CVS stores will stock the body care line, while 172 stores will offer skin care by the end of 2003. CVS initiated a pilot program with Lumene in Providence, R.I.; Charlotte, N.C., and New York’s Westchester County during the spring and summer, where more than 69 percent of consumers who tried the brand said they “loved it.”According to Jacobs, education is paramount in getting the Lumene story across. CVS will offer brochures and tips at the point of sale to acclimate shoppers to the unique ingredients in Lumene.

Lumene takes its name from the lake Lummenne in Finland and was designed to suit the demanding needs of women in the harsh Scandinavian climate. “Lumene products combine the latest in skin care technology and natural ingredients to deliver beautiful results,” said Tina Ishohanni, Lumene vice president marketing.

Ingredients not typically found in American skin care products help Lumene stand out from the competition.Ingredients indigenous to Finland such as cloudberries, peat and pure spring water are components of the ingredient story.

The skin care lineup includes products rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. There are cleansers, skin care with vitamins and a special collection of products to stimulate cell regeneration.

Makeup is a critical portion of the Lumene story. The collection includes face makeup, corrective cosmetics, eye makeup, lip and nail care. The upscale packaging features an icy blue and sleek silver casing.

Plant properties are the active ingredients in body care, which ranges from a cellulite gel to Hand Rescue Conditioning Hand Cream.

Noiro, a division of Orion Group, manufactures Lumene products. CVS is extremely committed to making Lumene a success. The company put dollars behind advertising in select markets and will use direct mail, in-store demonstrators, circulars and magazine ads.

Point-of-sale brochures give women step-by-step makeup tips as well as advice on how to select the right makeup. The skin care guide educates women about different types of skin and what Lumene item will work best for their skin type. The brochures are more extensive than most materials available in drugstores today.

According to Jacobs, CVS hopes Lumene will attract a new consumer base to CVS’s skin and beauty department. “It might be a shopper who just comes in for a prescription.”

To capture shoppers, CVS is using a variety of displays. Most stores will have a lighted freestanding fixture at the entrance to the cosmetics department — a spot once allocated to its experiment with a proprietary color line called Essence of Beauty. CVS has reconfigured many stores to have beauty right at the front door. The fixture accommodates skin and color. In other stores, Lumene will be housed near the cosmetics wall. There is also an option of a front-end end-of-aisle display for CVS’s smaller footprints. The body products are integrated into the existing body department.Industry sources applauded CVS’s efforts to shake up the business. “If drugstores don’t do something different, they are roadkill,” said industry consultant Allan Mottus. “The trouble with private label is that it looks like private label. This has unique packaging and a source authority from Finland which is associated with the positive ingredients people are looking for.”

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