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Retailers Double as Color Marketers

NEW YORK -- More than 70 women lined up at the Duane Reade's Times Square store for free makeovers using the chain's exclusive line Apt. 5 on Tuesday.<P>Makeup artist Angela DeFrancis, who has worked with 'NSync and VH-1 Divas Live, artfully made up...

NEW YORK — More than 70 women lined up at the Duane Reade’s Times Square store for free makeovers using the chain’s exclusive line Apt. 5 on Tuesday.

Makeup artist Angela DeFrancis, who has worked with ‘NSync and VH-1 Divas Live, artfully made up women of all ages and colors while Duane Reade employees scribbled notes to give shoppers about the colors used. Many women wandered to the display to buy the suggested shades.

Apt. 5 is the latest of color cosmetics launches devised by retailers, rather than traditional color manufacturers. To date, mass chains such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Boots, Target, Wal-Mart, Eckerd and CVS have created exclusive color brands. The Chain Drug Marketing Association will add its own color line later this year. And, proprietary color brands are among the fastest sellers at Sephora and Ulta.

The question arises — can retailers be successful color marketers? And, do consumers mind that the brands are created by a drug or discount chain rather than by marketers armed with advertising dollars?

“Two years ago, I would have told you it couldn’t work. Now it is a 50-50 proposition,” said Allan Mottus, an industry consultant. “What’s changed, especially after Sept. 11 is that people are no longer embarrassed to say they bought something at Wal-Mart. There’s a move to `alternate chic.”‘ The success of Sephora and Ulta have also helped lure people out of department stores and into places where they can play with products, Mottus added.

Consumers visiting venues with exclusive brands interviewed by Women’s Wear Daily don’t seem to have a problem with buying a house brand. However, the major obstacle facing retailers marketing exclusive brands appears to be getting the products in front of shoppers. Without the advertising of national brands, the house brands must stand out on their own.

Once shoppers discover an exclusive, it appears to have the desired affect. One woman from Albany was actually thrilled to hear Apt. 5 was a Duane Reade exclusive. “I was on my way to Sephora and then shopping when I walked by and got the card for a free makeover,” said Susan Blackwood. “We don’t have Duane Reade upstate so no one will have this and I can get more on the Internet.” Apt. 5 is also available via a Web site.

In addition to the Web site, Duane Reade is doing more than most chains to market the brand. Advertising is appearing in major women’s magazines, on billboards, buses and in-store signs. The fixture is also a major marketing tool. Karen Durham, divisional merchandise manager, expects it will outsell many existing brands in Duane Reade’s doors.

One surprise for a handful of the shoppers sampling Duane Reade was the pricing. One consumer, Beth Blankety, was caught off guard when she went to get an eye pencil priced at $5.50, a little higher than expected. “I was already buying the lip gloss and I didn’t want to spend more,” she said after her makeover. She also used the color suggestion from the makeup artist to buy another brand’s cheaper nail enamel. Durham maintained that Apt. 5 is not meant to be a budget brand. “These are great quality products and we didn’t cut on costs,” she said.

Even without the marketing muscle that Duane Reade is is putting forth, house brands are selling at other chains. At a Clearwater, Fla. Eckerd store, consumer Kaye Salikof stumbled upon the Mira brand by accident. “I don’t usually shop drugstores for cosmetics,” she said. “I happened to need a lip gloss and saw the Mira brand. It didn’t matter to me who made it, it looked good,” she said.

Mottus said the quest to nab shoppers trading down from department stores is an important component of the private label ventures.

Placement has been critical at CVS with Essence of Beauty. Surprisingly, a manager at a Philadelphia store said the line actually sold better when moved from a spot near the door to one at the rear of beauty. Kristin Carley, who works in Philadelphia, has become a fan of the brand. “I’m very fussy about what I put on my skin and these products don’t make me break out like some others,” she said. She didn’t discover the brand on her own, however, a store associate pointed them out.

Getting consumers to try house brands is crucial, agreed Ramy Jamnik, vice president of Essentials. “Our private label had a slow start, but once people started using the testers, they got into it,” he said.

Store location has been monumental in building sales of the private label at Ulta. Chief executive officer Lyn Kirby said the private label brand is growing at a rate faster than other brands. She points out that private labels at Ulta fill a market void, rather than posing competition to national brands. That’s the goal at CDMA, according to category manager Judy Aspinall, who said Beauty Essentials is being created to give her members products that rival Clinique, which is not available to drugstores.

Consumers are often willing to seek out licensed names. Kate Klinck, a tween shopper in New Jersey, went to Wal-Mart specifically for Mary-Kate and Ashley toiletries and cosmetics. Coty has also helped build a following for Rimmel in Wal-Mart. Dramatic advertising for the line doesn’t mention it is only sold in Wal-Mart. Consumers need to visit the Web site to find the nearest store — which is a Wal-Mart.

Industry sources said that, based on the size of the chain, house labels can deliver about $2 million to $10 million in sales. And, according to the Private Label Manufacturers Association in New York, 75 percent of Americans now define store labels as “brands” and give them the same degree of positive qualities as national brands.

There are, however, numerous downsides to house labels. One buyer who just got into it lamented the fact that fixtures were broken upon arriving at the store.

“The temptation to increasingly move into color cosmetics as part of private label is great, but the path is fraught with challenges,” said Wendy Liebemann, president of WSL Strategic Retail.”You have to act as if you are the manufacturer. You have to separate yourself from being the retailer.”

Inter Parfums Inc.’s subsidiary Jean Philippe Fragrances LLC has completed the purchase of properties and trademarks held by Tristar Corp. As part of that deal, Fragrance Impressions Corp., manufacturer of alternative designer scents sold at mass doors, has purchased most of the remaining assets of Tristar. Jean Philippe has agreed to use Fragrance Impressions’ manufacturing facilities to produce products under the Tristar brands. The result is the merging of two ADF competitors into one company.”