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Hiring Help for Store Events

NEW YORK — Retailers are finding an avenue to provide beauty tips and sampling without adding beauty advisers.<br><br>Chains have increasingly been staging in-store events run by a third party. Not only has Eckerd offered product demonstrations,...

NEW YORK — Retailers are finding an avenue to provide beauty tips and sampling without adding beauty advisers.

Chains have increasingly been staging in-store events run by a third party. Not only has Eckerd offered product demonstrations, but also the chain was able to stage an event where shoppers received a gift-with-purchase of Cover Girl products. In the past, mass market retailers have not been able to handle gwp’s since there was little sales help to ensure customers bought what they needed for the freebies.

And Rite Aid has taken makeup demonstrations in drugstores to new heights. The chain has a professional makeup artist in 25 of its top stores for 10 hours during select weeks.

The best news? Both chains have been able to tap suppliers for the funding.

Cosmetic Promotions, a Florida-based firm specializing in beauty promotions, works with suppliers to foot the costs of demonstrations and other in-store programs. For retailers, the service offers a chance to provide one-on-one customer interaction. For manufacturers, the store-specific marketing campaigns cut through the clutter of traditional advertising vehicles. Joann Tyson, president and founder of Cosmetic Promotions, has been in business for 13 years. The business has experienced double-digit increases for two years and Tyson hopes to expand sales by 14 percent this year.

The stagnant economy and a sluggish mass beauty environment have put a brighter spotlight on in-store promotions. “When times are good, there’s more money to go around. However, when times are bad, marketers realize they have to do something different to get sales going,” said Tyson.

Tyson’s firm offers an array of tools ranging from store opening events, makeup artists, customized newsletters, advertising design/placement and sampling programs. The presence of demonstrators can help ignite product sales. A Revlon event at Eckerd, for example, resulted in more than three pieces of Revlon merchandise selling per hour. “We are very pleased with the many types of promotions Joann and her team have created for our stores,” said Kathy Steirly, vice president of beauty for Eckerd.

Tyson said her business has evolved from dealing primarily with suppliers to working with retailers, too. “We originally would do a job for a manufacturer. The chain would see it and then recommend us to another manufacturer and now we have been creating programs specific for individual chains. The biggest challenge is making each event special for each vendor,” she said. “We tell our people that each event is like having a first baby.”

To give every chain and supplier something different, Tyson has expanded well beyond demonstrations to create sweepstakes, newsletters and other promotional events. Her firm worked with Osco Drug/Sav-On on an event last fall that featured a consumer sweepstakes for a trip to New York. The sweepstakes was promoted in leading magazines.

The value of in-store promotions stretches well beyond the units moved during the event. “Sometimes sales don’t exceed the cost of the event right away. But, you build loyal shoppers who come back and you create a good word of mouth,” said Tyson.

Cosmetic Promotions also finds ways to stretch marketing dollars. One example is to advertise vendors’ products in high school newspapers — a relatively inexpensive vehicle. This strategy has been used for products such as acne remedies. A store-specific coupon accompanies the ad to drive students to a particular chain.

Brad Farnworth, corporate senior account executive for Procter & Gamble, in a written statement, summed up Cosmetic Promotion’s success at uncovering unique marketing strategies. “They understand the retail environment and the complex nature of the cosmetic category and they have a clear understanding of the consumer, which means they help tailor promotions that drive sales,” he said.