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Critical Mass: Enticing Shoppers to Mass, One Sample at a Time

In today's economy, the best way to grow business is to court shoppers from other retailers or, in the case of manufacturers, from other brands.

NEW YORK — In today’s economy, the best way to grow business is to court shoppers from other retailers or, in the case of manufacturers, from other brands.

It has been proven that one of the best ways to lure those consumers is to tempt them with samples and demonstrations, which have been tricky for mass merchants who often don’t have the staffing needed for such efforts.

These tactics don’t need to be out of reach for the mass universe, according to Joann Tyson, president of Cosmetic Promotions, a 19-year-old firm specializing in event planning, advertising design, newsletters, store openings, sampling, sweepstakes and other in-store events.

Cosmetic Promotions has worked with chains such as Walgreens and Rite Aid, and manufacturers including Coty and L’Oréal on myriad programs.

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“We are doing more sweepstakes, outside target sampling and college programs than we used to and I believe retailers and brands want us to help them develop new markets and bring customers back to the stores as opposed to just marketing to the customers that are already there,” said Tyson. “We are also doing more training of store associates and supplying the beauty advisors with the tools to approach customers so they can provide in-store demos of their own.”

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Cosmetic Promotions has found that the in-store demo programs typically sell about one week’s worth of items within the four hours of demonstrations. Plus, the benefits aren’t always immediate. Shoppers try an item and then are hooked and tell friends.

The Grand Opening in a Box program includes everything a retailer needs including funding, which comes from vendors, the samples, bags and giveaways, and the professionals to distribute bags and demonstrate products. Scratch-off coupons at grand openings help redemption to two times the industry average, said Tyson. “We feel like we are part of the marketing team and our goal is to make events customized and special to their individual goals,” she added.

There’s also the Day of Beauty in-store makeover event where a professional makeup artist, sponsored by vendors, performs makeovers in stores.

The endcap programs result in higher rebates than average and some of the other vehicles are harder to measure, but Tyson said they are fruitful. “All I know is that my clients want more and more so they are seeing benefits,” she said.

Among some of the recent events staged by Cosmetic Promotions include L’Oréal programs at colleges where students receive bags with bounce-back cards, a teen promotion at Rite Aid where bags were distributed and endcap enhancement programs where the company comes in and creates an in-store theater. Also, Cosmetic Promotions has been called upon for many makeovers for events such as Black History Month and Earth Day. Cosmetic Promotions also worked with Rite Aid on the Hispanic Heritage Celebration in Los Angeles where more than 30,000 Hispanics attended. The company distributed 2,000 gift bags to Latino women within the first few hours of the day.

With more chains adding posh beauty departments,

service is once again becoming crucial. While CVS Pharmacy is staffing up with more beauty advisers and Walgreens has beauty associates in all stores, many chains can’t afford them. With Cosmetic Promotions, they can gear up with service around special events. The company has a rigorous training system conducted with conference calls and training materials. “Joann has been a great strategic partner to Walgreens over the years,” said Michelle Hobson, manager of strategic development for Walgreens Beauty. “She brings to us extensive industry knowledge and a creative business-building approach. She is very professional and timely and is personally involved with all projects.”

She continued, “Some of our most successful programs have included in-store demonstrations — particularly around new brands, the development of training materials for our in-store beauty teams and supervisors, and ‘behind the scenes’ manufacturer support that includes newsletters and sample kits.”

Demonstrations are only half of the firm’s business and Tyson said her services are perfect for small or large chains. “We work as hard for a one-store event as a 100-store one,” she said. The company, she said, is very nimble and turns programs around quickly. Plans call for more magazine programs including customized spreads in women’s magazines and an expansion of training programs as more contests and sweepstakes are created.

Tyson is even branching out of beauty and working with the beverage and liquor industry to perform some of the same services. Surprisingly, she’s found many of the tactics used in beauty work in that industry, too.