By  on September 22, 2006

The world's largest retailer is acknowledging consumers' growing demand for natural beauty items with the addition of natural and organic skin care displays in 366 U.S. Wal-Mart stores. The 4-foot sets, called Natural and Organic Bodycare Oasis, are scheduled to enter stores over the next two weeks. Items will be placed in the specialty bath sections of stores and anchored by beauty newcomer Noah's Naturals. Items by well-known natural care brand Jason, owned by the Hain Celestial Group, and bath accessories by Schroeder & Tremayne, will also be featured.

Wal-Mart would not comment on the new endeavor.

Jeff Buchbinder, vice president of sales and marketing of Noah's Naturals, said the Los Angeles manufacturer forged a relationship with Wal-Mart earlier this year, just after Noah's Naturals was born. Explaining how the fledgling company made inroads with one of the most sought-after retailers in the world, Buchbinder said, "The principals of my company have worked for several beauty brands and have been calling on Wal-Mart for years."

Prior to establishing Noah's Naturals, the company's chief executive, Noah Bremen, had been a product management consultant and a sales rep for different brands, including the Hollywood Celebrity Diet and Razor Scooter.

Morris Shriftman, senior vice president of Avalon Organics, a leading natural and organic beauty care company, said Wal-Mart's interest in the natural and organic personal care market was indicative of the shift taking place in the mass industry as a whole.

"Mass stores are trying to get the Whole Foods customer, the better-educated, better-traveled customer who has a higher disposable income, who also believes that natural and organic have distinct value and benefits," Shriftman said. He added that the organics market has grown 15 to 20 percent in sales each year over the past nine years, and that his company's sales are up 27.6 percent in 2006 over the previous year.

Drugstore chains CVS and Longs now offer natural and organic items, too.

Buchbinder, who most recently was with Ronkonkama, N.Y., vitamin company Twinlab, said "the planets were aligned" for Noah's Naturals' Wal-Mart deal, but added there may have been some appeal in the manufacturers' good-better-best concept, which offers consumers three brands at three price points, each targeting different needs. The It's All Good line, the higher-end offering, uses rosemary and mint in formulations with midlevel mass prices ranging from $8.99 to $14.99. Honest to Goodness is a complete line of bath, body and hair care products containing essential oils with prices ranging from $6.99 to $8.99. Heal Thyself offers aromatherapy products at $6.99 to $12.99."We discovered an opportunity to capture this consumer that is in need of masstige premium products, who is willing to pay a fair price, but is uncertain whether she can spend $50 or $100 or $25," Buchbinder said, adding that the natural organic trend "is not a trend, it's a lifestyle shift."

It has been widely reported that Wal-Mart has already taken note of the mass interest in natural and organic items by providing an increasing selection of organic groceries in its superstores.

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