Cosmetics Deserts

The grocery industry has been tossing around the idea of “food deserts” for a year or so now — the phrase describes areas devoid of nutritious food options — prompted by efforts initiated by First Lady Michelle Obama. And Manhattan, where there aren’t always enough grocery store choices, isn’t an exception. But drug store chains, such as CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Duane Reade, are solving this issue by adding more produce and fresh foods.

The desert concept, although rooted in the grocery category, can also be applied to cosmetics. While consumers in many cities are spoiled by options of beauty retailers within walking distance or a five-minute drive, there are still many Americans who can’t get access to brands they desire.

The internet has solved this issue for many who feel confident to pick a color or a fragrance online. Web retailers are seeing some of the most robust growth in beauty in years. But for shoppers who want a hands-on experience, it’s still at least a 45-minute drive to get to a store with premium beauty brands, like in upstate New York where some towns are more than an hour from a major shopping mall. Even in New Jersey — the mall capital of America — many shoppers are 45 minutes from even a strip center with an Ulta.

These beauty deserts in the U.S. are fueling two trends — a desire for more premium names at mass as well as growth of Internet shopping. is revving up its site to include more accessories, especially hard-to-find items such as shapewear. The site is also serving as a launching pad for up-and-coming brands. The benefit of buying from, according to Kathleen McNeill, vice president of beauty, is that purchases can be bundled with so everything from paper towels to perfume can be shipped in one package.

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The concept of a beauty desert is even enticing more brands to open up Web sites of their own. Estée Lauder, Bare Escentuals and Lancôme are among the beauty brands with growing e-commerce sites. Rather than worrying about the impact selling directly to consumers has on its retail partners, these companies know there are millions of shoppers without easy access to the brands. Often this can serve as a fill-in when consumers can’t get to a favorite department store.

That all circles around to why drug and discount stores are still making pleas for better and more prestigious products. A department store could be 45 minutes away; a CVS only 10 minutes to drive. While it used to be said that trained sales staff was required to properly sell premium brands, there’s no denying today’s shoppers are better educated and research products before they buy. A self-service environment no longer means shoppers can’t make smart choices. Then there is the issue of in-store ambience. It is true drugstores and discount stores have miles to go to replicate a department store or specialty store setting, moves made by Duane Reade and Rite Aid show chains are heading in the right direction. More than ever, the consumer is in the driver’s seat and more and suppliers will have to adjust to where shoppers want to find beauty products.

People, Places and Things

A few words with Barry Shields of Red Carpet Manicure on his firm’s new LED gel nail color system. Gel manicures have been a huge push for salons; now firms are making them available at mass doors.

WWDBeautyNews: Why a gel product for home?
Barry Shields: Some women don’t have the time or others the money for gel manicures at salons. But women do want longer-lasting nail color and our gel system provides weeks out of a manicure.

Is it difficult to do at home?
BS: We are producing videos and clear and easy to follow steps for home. We have special products for preparation, care and color, finish and even removal. We have two choices of lights. We will launch in Ulta with all of the items and eventually have a starter kit that will retail for $79.99.

What’s In Store

Hain Transitions To New Standard: The Hain Celestial Group has announced its transition to the NSF/ANSI 305 Standard for Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients. Two years ago, Hain Celestial began a program of reformulation and relabeling to adhere to the NSF/ANSI 305 standard, the American National Standard for personal care products containing organic ingredients. The NSF/ANSI 305 Standard for Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients specifies the materials, processes, production criteria and conditions that must be met in order to make organic labeling and marketing claims. Under this standard, all personal care products with “organic” claims — other than ingredient lists — must contain a minimum organic content of 70 percent, and must be formulated without any ingredient or process disallowed by the NSF.


Victorious Hits Wal-Mart: Beauty products under the Victorious license from Townley will hit Wal-Mart for back-to-school along with hundreds of other Victorious merchandise. Many hope this will be the next big “it” license for tweens.

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