An assortment of Jesse’s Girl shades.

Jesse’s Girl is a small company that wants to make a big splash at next month’s National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Marketplace meeting in San Diego.

NEW YORK — Jesse’s Girl is a small company that wants to make a big splash at next month’s National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Marketplace meeting in San Diego.

This story first appeared in the May 28, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

There, the company, which has color cosmetics sold in beauty stores, Rite Aid and Kroger, among others, will feature makeup artist Rebecca Rachael performing demonstrations at the firm’s booth. Rachael has worked on movies such as “27 Dresses,” and for clients including Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Jesse’s Girl will bring in six models to highlight the line of fashionable yet affordable cosmetics. “We felt it was time to bring excitement to Marketplace, much like they do at beauty shows,” said Jesse Lawrence, chief executive officer and founder of Jesse’s Girl. Large video screens will project the images in the exhibit booth at the show, which runs from June 5 to 8.

Like many small companies, Lawrence has experienced the impact social networks can make in the beauty business. Quite by accident, Lawrence’s wife found numerous YouTube videos of makeup artists using Jesse’s Girl products. Thinking quickly, Lawrence sent out samples to many of the makeup artists and there are now hundreds of YouTube videos featuring his products. He also will have some of the makeup gurus from YouTube on hand for the show.

Lawrence found there was rising demand for the line of edgy items — and not all people lived near a store that stocked the line — so he added an e-commerce option to his Web site, which receives orders from around the globe. An updated site will bow in a few weeks to accommodate the demand. After one of the makeup experts talked up his brand, the site actually crashed. Lawrence said the makeup videos have opened up avenues to sell online since consumers can visualize how products look. The Internet has provided a great spot to make up for the challenges as chains consolidate. However, Lawrence’s goal is also to drive consumers to stores.

The retail portion of the business is looking strong, too, Lawrence said. Rite Aid now stocks primarily a 3-foot section in 2,500 units. He said the chain has realized the collection attracts shoppers who might typically be buying in Sephora, but spot the line at mass stores and are intrigued. “More people are trading down and see the quality and value of our line,” said Lawrence of the eye, lip, face and nail collection that mostly retails in the $3.99 range. He cited Mintel Research, which revealed that 34 percent of U.S. women have converted to lower-priced beauty during the tough economy.

Lawrence said he self-edits the line frequently, weeding out slow movers to make way for new items. Recently, the company added pencils with built-in sharpeners, making Jesse’s Girl one of the few mass options of its kind. There’s also seasonal promotions designed to move briskly, such a new baked powder eye shadow.

Lawrence thinks there is a pendulum in mass beauty where retailers’ buying whims swing from mainstream vendors to niche brands offering something unique. He thinks the industry is on the precipice of seeking out small and nimble suppliers again. There is a trend he hopes is returning and that’s mood lipsticks — a huge hit in the Seventies and Eighties. He’ll introduce a collection called In the Mood for the third quarter of this year.

For now, Lawrence doesn’t see an immediate return to retailers trying to boost margins with custom private brands. “With private label, the retailer owns the inventory and when trends change, they can’t sell the products or return them to manufacturers,” he explained. And, despite suggestions that Jesse’s Girl be packaged in blister cards to eliminate theft, Lawrence is adamant that beauty sells better when consumers can touch and feel. “The sales outweigh the pilferage,” he said.

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