Déjà vu? Consider these headlines:

 

Tween makeup — What’s Hot — Kmart Corp., Love Always Magenta; Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Mary-Kate and Ashley — Product Announcement

 

Wal-Mart Woos Teens With New Makeup Line

 

CVS Adds Cooler to Entice Convenience Food Customers

 

These headlines could be written today to describe what is going on in the mass market. But, in reality, they are grabbed from the mid- to late Nineties, when mass merchants were looking for brands to curry the tastes of what had just been coined “tweens,” as well as adding more food items to satisfy harried shoppers looking for one-stop shopping.

 

Retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Kmart and others, rushed to serve young customers with glittery and funky cosmetics. Jane, in fact, was launched by Sassaby, a line known for its makeup boxes, solely in Wal-Mart. It was followed by a bevy of young lines, including Caboodles, Fun, Townley and others. There was rapid growth and huge tween departments built into the store to add to the existing Bonne Bell business. For a bit, it worked well. But then retailers discovered they had allocated too much space to tween brands.

 

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Today, most of those names are gone or diminished in scope. Enter Wal-Mart with GeoGirl, produced by Pacific World. Notably, one of the powers behind the early success of Jane, Don Pettit, is one of a list of consultants on the brand. Pettit certainly knows a thing or two about what youthful shoppers crave. On the heels of GeoGirl, retailers expect a barrage of youth lines coming at them again — much like the Nineties. At the time of its launch, Jane was described as a brand reaching out to the untapped needs of young shoppers — much like the description of GeoGirl today.

 

So what will distinguish GeoGirl and the other tween brands expected to flow into the market? What could make a difference in this brand succeeding where former entries succumbed? A survey of a few retail industry veterans revealed some predictions. Several said shoppers now have different views of mass merchants; also, more moms shop beauty in drug and discount stores, and they will add an item or two for their tween daughters. Another few buyers said the ecology message could resonate with young girls who have been taught to look for ways to improve the environment. And, of course, there’s the power of Wal-Mart, which can certainly build a brand.

 

On the other hand, some buyers wonder if targeting tweens again is just a quick fix to bring in quick cash. They note that eliminating brands has sent some shoppers away and that merchants are looking for fast money. Wal-Mart, one buyer said, has struggled since it eliminated its bargain alleys and cut some stockkeeping units shoppers wanted to find at the chain.

 

A longtime industry observer noted that the newer tween brands could have more legs because they are full lines, not merely individual products featuring glitter.

 

What is for certain is that the industry is on the verge of another explosion of products aimed at the youngest users.

 

The addition of food is also a retro move. In the late Nineties, many chains, including CVS Pharmacy, Target and Walgreens, moved in coolers and added food. That trend is heating up again, with sushi, prepared foods and even beer sold in some stores. Although these moves are clearly bringing shoppers in to buy more per visit, the one caveat is that drugstores in particular must not go so far out into foods that they diminish the true message they need for customers: that they are first and foremost a source for health and prescriptions. The goal, said one buyer, is to avoid the mistakes of the past but improve on the concepts that were launched then to truly build sales. The next year will be fascinating to watch, as both drug and discount formats jockey for position with shoppers.

 

People, Places and Things

 

A few words with Grace Tallon, director of marketing for Kiss Products. Kiss is expanding into artificial eyelashes to complement its nail business. Tallon discussed why.

 

WWDBeautyNews: What are the new plans at Kiss?

Grace Tallon: We have been asked by buyers to expand into artificial lashes. We have tried to take our innovation with our handles on our nails and deliver that to lashes. Our patent pending design has a string through the lashes. You apply the glue and then pull the string through. Retailers are putting an emphasis on lashes.

 

WWDBeautyNews: What’s new in nails?

G.T.: We think the Minx styles will be big, and we are doing our own with a product that is like a sticker. You put it on and it can easily be peeled off. We have lots of really cool designs. It should also bump people up to more artificial nails, too.

 

What’s in Store:

 

Mr. Bubble Hits 50: To celebrate his 50th anniversary, the Mr. Bubble character has been updated and will feature a special birthday label throughout 2011.

 

Moms Want Antibacterial Soaps: According to a poll from the Personal Care Products Council and the American Cleaning Institute, 74 percent of American consumers use antibacterial soap and find it to be a useful tool to prevent the spread of germs. In addition, 75 percent of moms would reportedly be “angry” if the government took antibacterial soap off the market, while two-thirds of consumers would be upset if the government removed antibacterial soap from the market.

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