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Critical Mass: Mass Brands Work on Character Development

ORLANDO, Fla. — The mass youth beauty market is building some character.<br><br>Inspired by upscale lines such as Stila and Bloom, mass market manufacturers are adding story lines and cute characters to product lines bearing names like Trina or...

ORLANDO, Fla. — The mass youth beauty market is building some character.

Inspired by upscale lines such as Stila and Bloom, mass market manufacturers are adding story lines and cute characters to product lines bearing names like Trina or Petunia.

Marketing mass brands to a young audience is hardly new. What was different at the recent Efficient Promotion Planning Session (EPPS), held at the Renaissance Orlando Resort here from Sunday through Wednesday, was the fact that even products for young girls are growing up. Retailers noticed improvements in packaging and marketing.

The need for enhanced packaging is being driven by the fact that young girls like to shop mass stores, but have been exposed to more hip products at specialty or department stores.

By offering better — often more sophisticated items — mass merchants hope to retain their customers. A recent Beauty Biz survey, for example, revealed that 60 percent of teens shop drug or discount stores for beauty. These customers, however, are fickle and are being tempted by stepped-up efforts at specialty and department stores.

Mass merchants are starting to see that they need more than just a few jars of glitter to make a teen statement.

“Everyone has talked about tweens and teens for some time,” said Gary Schofield, president of Caboodles Cosmetics. “Now retailers are really trying to address them with programs rather than just items.”

Dan Koglin, buyer cosmetics at the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, agreed. “I am seeing a lot of good teen merchandise this year,” he said. In the past, some marketers just added glitter or bright colors to appeal to young girls, he added.

With so much competition for the big bucks young girls spend, marketers have found that they need a point of difference. It is no longer enough to sprinkle glitter into a body gel or stick a cute charm on a package.

For many, the next step is to add a character or story to the product lineup. New Dana, for example, is readying Frills. There is a story line within Frills about Trina the Traveler, who brings back beauty advice from around the world. “There has been strong reception to our Frills line,” said Celeste Ward, vice president of sales.

Paris Presents touted a new nail care line called Ms. Manicure, also with a storyline. Packages and signs feature a drawing of Ms. Manicure, who offers nail care advice. “Teens respond to characters. This is a category that has some fun and personality to it,” said Robin Edwards, regional sales manager for Paris Presents. Prices range from $3.99 for nail care items up to $12.99 for gift kits. Duane Reade’s Marti Bentley is among the retailers who expressed excitement about Paris Presents’ new efforts.

Just Having Fun Cosmetics introduced the Petunia character several years ago. Myra Solomon, vice president, said she plans to further expand the use of the Petunia icon. “I have big plans for things Petunia can do,” she said. One item at the show was Petunia’s Lovin’ Lips Lip Gloss to help girls avoid chapped lips.

Buy-Rite, Inc. also has its own icon called Samantha, who adorns its packaging on items such as comb in hair color and tattoo tape.

While marketers here hoped cute iconic drawings would keep shoppers buying, many were also trying to renew interest in nail color. Already, Del Laboratories Nail Prisms is considered a hit from initial retail sell-through. “This is the hottest-selling nail polish of the year,” said Rich Gallucci, regional manager for Del. He said the company, which markets the Sally Hansen brand, plans a nail growth accelerator for launch later this year.

Worldwide Cosmetics unveiled a new collection under the Savina logo, which consists of 24 nail colors that change to a different color in the sunlight. Called Sunsations, the nail colors will retail for about $6.99. Another hot item, according to Worldwide’s vice president of retail sales Michael Eckert, is the Flash Freeze, a product to prevent nail yellowing.

Despite the timing so close to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Annual Meeting, EPPS was a hotbed of other new product activity. Prestige Cosmetics, for example, introduced several innovations. One is a new vinylwear lip gloss and nail prepack combination in new shades. The nail color is an extension of Prestige’s successful vinyl lip gloss. The nail provides clear color with a shiny finish.

Also new from Prestige set for a March 2003 launch is Beauty Bar, groupings of shades for lips and eyes. Each eye palette contains four coordination powder shadow shades. The lip collection has five mix-and-match colors.

Taking a cue from last year’s chrome nail explosion, Prestige also has liquid metal eye shadow duos, which create a chrome look for eyes. In long-wearing lip, Prestige is planning a new long-wearing product called Lip Concentrate. A final new item revealed at EPPS was a Sun Kissed Bronzer. Prestige has been an up-and-coming brand in drug and discount doors. According to Tim Winarick, executive vice president, the firm’s sales have grown 35 percent in the past 52 weeks in chain drug stores.

Procter & Gamble has an aggressive new item lineup, including a Pearl Collection of its phenomenally popular Outlast and a new multiplying mascara that separates and lengthens. A new Clean Oil Control Makeup will ship in early January; the company hopes it will bring newness to the Clean franchise. Under the Max Factor umbrella, there are new lustrous shades for Infinity and a Stretch and Separate Mascara.

Among some of the unique items at the show were Swab Plus swabs, which have makeup remover imbedded in the swabs; false eyelashes called Flash Lash from Jerome Russell, an imitation cell phone from Fira that includes an array of beauty items, an opalescent French manicure kit from Nailene and an expansion of the Heaven brand from Blue Cross Beauty.

The mood at EPPS was upbeat and as always, suppliers credited the organization with delivering retailers to the 20-minute meetings, which take place in hotel rooms. Retailers said the tough economy continues to favor value retailing. “In a bad economy, women still buy lipstick,” said AAFES’ Koglin. Another buyer added: “Our challenge is to deliver upon their expectations and not present value that is junky.”