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Anise Makes a Case for Small Brands at Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart might be the biggest chain in the world, but it gives even little companies a chance.

Wal-Mart might be the biggest chain in the world, but it gives even little companies a chance.

A case in point is Anise Cosmetics, an up-and-coming company that secured distribution in Wal-Mart by filling in the gaps the big brands overlooked. Ten years ago, Tam Tran, cofounder of Anise, wrote a letter to Wal-Mart executives in support of chain efforts to promote women’s health in the nail-care section. She noted many nail brands on the market included dibutyl phthalate, toluene, formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals, which she had worked to eliminate in her Nail-Aid line.

Wal-Mart took note and gave Anise a crack with one item, an antiyellowing topcoat called Sunblock for Nails.

“That one product on a single hook resulted in about 40,000 distribution points in all Wal-Mart domestic stores,” said Neal Wallach, executive managing director of Anise, who said the company now has 15 items in the chain. A spokesperson for Wal-Mart confirms Anise has been a “great partner and vendor.”

Industry sources estimate Anise generates sales exceeding $10 million a year.

Recently, Wal-Mart added Anise’s newest item, No-Rub polish remover. The popularity of glitter, dark polish and nail art has prompted the need for more potent removers. Her solution is a No-Rub remover, a dip-in gel that doesn’t require cotton balls. In one week, No-Rub generated more than a million views on YouTube and Facebook.

The idea for No-Rub came to Tran in her sleep after a bad manicure. She’s made it a goal to improve choices in nail care since she started selling salon products from a kiosk in Aventura Mall in Florida. By listening to consumers, she saw the need for lines without toxic chemicals before some of them became banned.

“She has a knack for knowing what women want in nail care before they know it,” Wallach said.

Anise also created Gel Express tougher nails formula for women who are tired of gel nails and want to grow their own, Nail-Aid’s 3-Day Growth with Keratin and a 3-Minute Pedi Peel. Anise was ahead of the stick application trend now taking over in mass skin care. The company offers stick forms of its Clinical Dark Spot, Dark Circles and Puffy Eyes remedies, as well as Handtastic, a butter stick. Prices range from $3.88 for the Nail-Aid mani and pedi care remedies to $12.48 for the Solutions24 Clinical line. Packaging is frequently updated, noted Wallach, to avoid shelf fatigue. “Long-term growth in this sleepy category can only be achieved with inventive product and eye-catching, not dated, packaging.”