NEW YORK — When Anson Williams was starring as Potsie on “Happy Days” in the late Seventies, the show’s creator, Garry Marshall, recommended actors wear a few hats to compensate for when they couldn’t get work.
“And after seeing my acting, he told me to have four or five hats,” joked Williams during a telephone interview. Williams took that advice to heart. Not only did he go on to write and direct other television hits ranging from “Melrose Place” to “Lizzie McGuire,” he also got into the beauty business.
After hearing buzz from actors on the set about a product that alleviated the typical redness associated with microdermabrasion, Williams decided to make the product available to people outside of the entertainment industry. He convinced the product’s creator, a makeup artist named JoAnna Connell, to move from making tubs of the formula in her garage to forming a company called StarMaker Products. Connell, unhappy with conventional market products, had researched the use of crushed pearls as a resurfacing treatment. Her mixture has made her a favorite with stars including Madonna, Janet Jackson and Hilary Duff.
Now five years old, StarMaker’s hallmark product is a Micro Pearl Abrasion kit that mass market retailers predict will be a hit for fall’s skin care lineup.
Micro Pearl Abrasion has a proven track record on QVC and drugstore.com, where buyer Kristy Mattson calls it “a fast mover.”
In the past few weeks, StarMaker executives have been meeting with buyers of major mass market chains to expand distribution. “Everyone is getting into microdermabrasion. There are at least 14 companies on the market and we want to be a part of the business,” said Bill Browne, vice president of sales and marketing for the company, based in Malibu, Calif.
Retailers think Micro Pearl Abrasion could achieve first-year sales of more than $15 million, especially as consumers flock to at-home versions of what has been, until now, a costly salon or dermatological process. Micro Pearl Abrasion has carried a price tag of up to $40. But mass market retailers plan to swallow some of the profits and sell the kit for $19.99. That retail still affords a healthy gross margin.
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Most merchants will debut the product on power wings affixed to end-of-aisle displays. Graphics on displays hammer home the point that the process features crushed pearls rather than aluminum oxide as part of the treatment. “It really is so gentle you can use it under the eyes,” said Browne. The company is also planning a multimillion advertising campaign.
StarMaker is an unusual story in today’s market, where retailers tend to play it safe and buy products from established manufacturing powers. But it is also the type of product retailers hope can provide a big push for mass market skin care sales. It is one of several microdermabrasion kits hitting retail shelves in the next few months.
StarMaker produces two other products that have been inspired by the television industry. Dry Touch alleviates dry hands, a syndrome that often happens under hot lights. Then there is Micro Pearl Abrasion mist spray, which can be used between microdermabrasion treatments. A more expensive version of Micro Pearl Abrasion is in the works, which will retail for more than $50 and is designed for an assisted sale.
There are also five or six other products in the pipeline at StarMaker, so retailers view the company as a multiline vendor rather than a one-item wonder. “We’re in this for the long run,” said Williams.