The legendary brands that built the mass market beauty business are preparing for battle to reclaim their share of sales siphoned off by nimble upstart competitors and specialty retailers. Leading the charge is a revamped Almay, complete with an arsenal of new items, a quartet of influencers and improved in-store presentation.
Almay isn’t alone in its efforts to meet fledging brands head on, mass market retail executives said, citing initiatives from Almay’s parent Revlon and Cover Girl now under the Coty banner. Retailers welcome the much-needed attention to core brands.
Spearheading efforts is Linda Wells, the former editor in chief of Allure, who joined Revlon earlier this year as chief creative officer.
“We’ve got all the pieces in place,” Wells said in an interview with WWD. “Almay is getting some much-deserved love.”
She’ll have her work cut out for her. Introduced in 1931, Almay was hypoallergenic and fragrance-free way before those attributes resonated with shoppers. However, the brand’s sales, Revlon acknowledged when reviewing financial results earlier this year, have been pinched by lower foot traffic in mass stores and a shift to online consumption.
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Revlon does not break out Almay’s sales, but reported that North American Consumer sales (which include Revlon, Almay, Sinful Colors, Cutex, Pure Ice, Charlie, Jean Nate, Mitchum, Natural Honey and Gatineau) were $882.4 million in 2016, down 4.2 percent from 2015’s $921.3 million. Industry sources estimate Almay’s total U.S. volume rings in at between $150 million and $175 million. Digging into data from IRI for the 52-week period ended June 11 for multiunit doors, a few of the brand’s lines showed declines. For example, Almay’s Clear complexion was down 8.2 percent while Intense Eye dipped 18 percent.
There were flickers of hope, however, such as 12 percent gains for eyeliner. And the company pointed to promising purchases of a new mascara with a megaphone-shaped brush called Mega-Volume Mascara that is carving out share in the major volume sector of the business.
Still, compounding the downturn in some key categories, retailers said they’ve seen revival plans from Almay before that didn’t give the lift they expected. In fact, more than 15 years ago another former editor, Rochelle Udell of Shape, attempted to burnish the brand’s image.
Wells said what is different this time is that the new blueprint is a “holistic” plan stretching beyond marketing to encompass product innovation, new packaging and in-store displays and digital expressions to foster an emotional connection with consumers. That includes more sophisticated Millennials, she said, who self-educate with online platforms. That’s where a new influencer campaign comes into play.
With a tagline “Reveal the True You,” Almay is building off its heritage, but eyeing ways to resonate with younger shoppers. “We want this to not be dictatorial, rather something they engage with. It isn’t about covering yourself up with layers and layers of makeup, but expressing yourself with makeup,” Wells said.
Like many beauty brands, Almay is giving the microphone to influencers. In this case, four distinct women with backgrounds ranging from Hispanic to Lebanese and light to darker complexions — one is even known for her freckles. Retailers said it is a departure from the often typically fair-skinned Almay girl.
Their stories will be showcased in video content on Instagram and Facebook starting in August. The influencers — Chachi Gonzales, Wendy Nguyen, Nadia Aboulhosn and Nikia Phoenix — range in reach from 1.1 million followers to about 31,000. Candidly they discuss their own challenges and how there is no longer one definition of beauty.
“I think it takes a lot of courage to ‘Reveal the True You,’” said Nguyen. “It takes a lot of courage to share, to be vulnerable, to really talk about what makes you feel beautiful, or what beauty means to you. So I think the campaign itself is just a great way to open the discussion — for women to embrace their true beauty, to actually talk about it and to encourage and lift each other up through our communal sense of what beauty means to us.”
Later this year and into 2018, Almay will unveil new packaging and fixturing to stores to establish itself as more of an innovator and color brand. The improved in-store presence is one area a few buyers said they hoped could elevate the overall beauty department.
The color range for Almay’s Smart Shade foundations will be broadened to include deeper shades for darker skin tones, something missing from the original launch. That should introduce new consumers that didn’t even know about Smart Shade, the company said.
There are new items planned for Clear Complexion and Truly Lasting Color. The company said it is also making headway with new loose powder and blush.
And to address the new consumer path to purchase, Wells said Almay is boosting its distribution to e-tailers and specialty beauty doors.
Retailers note companies such as Almay need to compress launch schedules to keep up with the E.l.f.’s of the world. A final caution from retailers to big brands coming in with plans to beat the “ankle biters” stealing their thunder is to avoid just duplicating what the fledgling companies are doing.
Wells said the shock waves the niche brands have created was a wakeup call to the industry. “It was a good thing that spurred us to action,” she said. “But we still have all of the rigors and the testing. We hold ourselves to very high standards even while we innovate.”