By and  on November 4, 2005

NEW YORK — After three years of alluding to how it will supercharge mass market beauty sales, Revlon has pulled back the curtain on two initiatives designed to reinvent how women shop for cosmetics.

Revlon's plans include the overhaul of Almay and the introduction of a new brand designed for women over 50 called Vital Radiance.

Referring to both the Almay revamp and Vital Radiance as "two important steps forward," Revlon president and chief executive officer Jack Stahl said in an interview, "This is just the beginning for us to build a new platform." Industry sources expect the two initiatives to have a retail sales impact of $180 million in 2006.

The moves, which will bow this spring, come after several years of housekeeping efforts on the company's flagship brand, Revlon. During Stahl's watch, the company has restaged three Revlon franchises, namely SuperLustrous, Age Defying and ColorStay, which will relaunch this spring.

"We're taking what had been strongholds and reenergizing them," said Stahl, adding that the company will continue to pursue this strategy to bolster growth. Revlon's efforts have begun to yield positive results. The company's reintroduction of Age Defying with Botafirm earlier this year fueled the franchise's sales up 28 percent.

Its tinkering within the Revlon brand may be significant, but the company's renovation of Almay and the creation of Vital Radiance will be its most ambitious projects during Stahl's tenure. Mending old retailer grievances, Revlon executives said it crafted each effort with the input of its retail partners.

Stephanie Klein Peponis, Revlon's executive vice president, chief marketing officer, said the company began looking at ways to revive Almay, which is positioned as a hypoallergenic, healthy beauty brand, several years ago. "When we looked at the brand portfolio, we saw a clear opportunity for healthy beauty at mass," said Peponis, noting that the segment is far more developed in the prestige channel with brands such as Origins. "Almay offers a terrific proposition, but it had been neglected," said Peponis.

Applying the experience of Almay's Intense I-Color, an eye makeup collection that tailors shades of mascara, shadow and liner to eye color, the company organized Almay's new display wall as a system of meticulously edited beauty products grouped according to their use.Since its launch early this year, Intense I-Color has generated nearly $50 million in sales, according to Stahl. Referring to the success of Intense I-Color, Peponis said: "We saw something much bigger. Consumers were saying, ‘Make it simple for me and I will participate.'"

That said, the company has branded the concept "Almay Beauty 1-2-3." Paul Murphy, Revlon's executive vice president of North American sales, described the redesigned wall — which is being closely guarded by Revlon, who wouldn't allow photographs of it — as a frame that facilitates a shopper's navigation from category to category. He added that the wall will fulfill the role of a beauty adviser, a post that has become scarce in the mass market. For instance, lip products — namely lipstick, gloss and liner — are organized in shade collections called Almay Ideal Lip. Signage running down the right side of the wall orients shoppers to their shade preferences, with questions such as "Love Neutrals?" "Love Pinks?" "Love Berries?" and "Love Reds?" By grouping lip products and eye products together, Peponis explained, "it eliminates the concern for mismatching."

The display is peppered with new items such as Smart Shade Makeup, a lightweight foundation suitable for multiple skin tones; Line Smoothing Liquid Makeup, designed to hydrate skin, and Triple Effect Mascara, said to curl, lengthen and thicken lashes. The two foundations will sell for a suggested retail price of $13.99 each, and the mascara for $7.99.

The wall also signals Almay's return to skin care, a move that includes an antiaging line and sun care offering. Skin care regimens occupy the left side of the display and are grouped according to skin type. As part of the relaunch, the brand also will expand its Intense I-Color Bring Out collection with Play Up, a range of more intense hues.

"It's the equivalent of Google for beauty," quipped Rochelle Udell, Revlon's executive vice president and chief creative officer, when describing the Almay wall.

The company will herald the reintroduction of Almay with a packaging overhaul that seeks to distance the brand from its current clinical look. Compacts are color-coded according to use in bright colors such as blue, yellow and purple and feature a large lowercase "a" logo, which executives say represents the brand name and conjures up positive associations, such as "A-list."Peponis acknowledged that Almay's trimmed assortment may be viewed as a risk, but believes it will pay off in increased sales. "She can only buy it if she can find it," explained Peponis, adding that if a consumer needs 72 lipstick shades to choose from, "she's our Revlon girl."

Revlon has suggested retailers allot 8 feet of space for the illuminated Almay display, citing lighted fixtures require more room. Many retailers have opted for a 6-foot version, but have credited Revlon for responding to their space concerns. With the scaled-back approach in place, retailers applauded the effort. Marti Bentley, director of beauty for Brooks Eckerd Pharmacy, was among many buyers who said the new Almay wall simplifies shopping the beauty wall.

On the Vital Radiance front, executives said they saw the need to address the beauty concerns of women over 50, and that the effort had to be separate from Revlon's "confident, sexy" positioning. In the company's view, the brand had to embody the mature woman's life stage.

"There are a large number of women out there who are fully content with their age, but want to look better now," explained Peponis. "She feels vital, she wants to look radiant."

Vital Radiance is designed as a three-step system, which is reflected through its in-store display. Products are grouped under three headers: "Prepare: Smooth & Correct," "Color: Energize Your Look" and "Finish: Add Dimension."

The Prepare step includes problem-solving products, such as Smoothing Face Primer and HydraSmooth Under-Eye Concealer, said to moisturize, reduce puffiness and hide dark circles. The Color step consists of face makeup, such as Line Softening Makeup Rehydrating, a foundation said to boost moisture without settling into fine lines, and Moisture Covering Compact Makeup. The final step, Finish, includes Moisture Boosting Lip Shine and Soft Dimension Powder Blush. Makeup tools, such as blush and foundation brushes, are interspersed within the assortment.

"This line is a regimen," said Murphy. "For this group of products to work, the consumer needs to think about these products as a system."

The company's consumer research indicated that mature women, having shopped the category for decades, are informed beauty consumers. Peponis commented, "Vital Radiance tries to solve the problem that was clear to her, but apparently not to manufacturers." For instance, the foundations contain more pink tones than yellow, which can make mature skin look dull.Vital Radiance, housed in pearlized beige packaging with silver accents, looks like a traditional beauty line. However, product benefits — called out in bold typeface within the 4-foot display — differentiate the brand. They include phases such as "glide on and blend effortlessly," "won't settle into lines" and "instantly bring back radiance." Revlon would not reveal specific retail price points, but put them in the ballpark of "premium plus." One retail buyer said the line is priced similarly to Clinique, and may help drugstores attract women who have left the category out of frustration or who generally shop for cosmetics in the department store channel.

Acknowledging recent attempts by beauty companies to court mature women, Peponis commented: "This isn't just marketing. We built Vital Radiance from the bottom up."

Retailers view Vital Radiance as more of a gamble for Revlon, but say it could pay off handsomely if it clicks with consumers. "The concept is great, but can it be communicated?" asked one retail buyer. However, buyers recognize the brand is targeted to women already shopping their stores, which could translate into a huge hit. "And Revlon is spending big [on Vital Radiance]," noted Sally Yanke, a former buyer with Medic Drug.

But not all retail chains are jumping on board with both feet. Market reports are that Walgreens will roll out Vital Radiance chainwide, but that others, such as CVS, are experimenting with the concept in select stores.

Further complicating retailers' shuffling of planograms is the nonstop barrage of other lines launching this spring. Procter & Gamble, Max Factor and L'Oréal all have new lines that buyers describe as "MAC-like." Said one retailer: "There is going to be some gnashing of teeth, especially with the smaller, fringe vendors, because the big just keep getting bigger."

In the midst of intensified competition, several retail buyers credit Revlon with making adjustments to both Almay and Vital Radiance based on their feedback. Revlon began presenting the initiatives to retail accounts in April.

Recalling when he first joined Revlon three years ago, Murphy said: "Revlon made some promises and asked retailers to work with the company through the next couple of years. The company promised to invest in ingenuity to get this category growing again."

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