DENVER — Beauty executives returning from the National Association of Chain Drug Stores’ Total Store Expo, held Aug. 22-25, identified natural products, facial masks and lines from Korea as treasures from the exhibit floor.

Retailers from more than 250 chains representing almost 200,000 doors pounded the pavement at the Colorado Convention Center in search of merchandise to drive shoppers back to mass-market beauty. More than 55 cosmetics and fragrance manufacturers attended, many offering offbeat items to put a jolt in sales. According to multichannel data from IRI, most beauty categories are growing at less than a 3 percent rate.

While major beauty brands will always be the core of drug- and discount-store beauty departments, buyers at the show were looking for upstart lines — those disrupting the status quo. “Get out there and look for the interruption that’s worth stopping you in your tracks: an exhibitor with a new product, or a business partner with a new idea,” urged Steven C. Anderson, president and chief executive officer of NACDS.

Among those that made retailers take note was Absolute New York, a color collection from Nicka K. “We combine the best of the trends from Korea and Japan with American preferences,” explained Alex Chung, director of marketing for the emerging brand, adding that some of the colors in Asia are still too edgy for the U.S. Already sold in Ulta Beauty and select CVS, Absolute consists of more than 300 stock-keeping-units priced between $4.99 and $12.99. “I loved their eyeliners,” said one top drug chain executive. “They have a direct line to Korean beauty.”

Beauty products with a natural positioning were sought out as the category continues to post annual 24 percent gains. Making a debut at the show was Dr. Hauschka, which was awarded the prize for the best product showcase in the personal-care category.

Beyond natural, products appealing to Millennials took center stage. Several companies showcased masks, a category just gaining traction at mass. One was from So Fresh So Clean called the Green Tea Wash-Off Mask targeted at consumers 18 to 34 years old.

“There is no doubt Millennials have already begun to dramatically impact your business,” said NACDS’ Anderson. “Millennials are replacing Baby Boomers as the largest living generation, so they are worth getting to know.”

Millennials weren’t the only chatter at NACDS. Retailers and suppliers discussed executive changes at Walgreens Boots Alliance, notably the departure of Shannon Curtin, the former top beauty executive. Most credited Curtin with improvements in mass beauty retailing that benefitted not only Walgreens, but also the entire industry. The consensus is that the newly formed chain is importing more executives and concept from Boots to the U.S.

Attendees got a worldview from Tom Brokaw and were serenaded by the Goo Goo Dolls. NACDS Total Store Expo will take place in Boston in 2016.



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