The numbers are astonishing. Wal-Mart sells 1.6 mascaras every second. That’s 49 million mascaras a year.

But although the numbers are mouth-watering, Jody Pinson, vice president of merchandising for beauty, acknowledges the sheer size and heavy foot traffic at the chain presents challenges in merchandising and managing beauty. Consider this: the company offers 1,750 different types of lip product. It would take five years to have a different lip look with the assortment using one per day.

“Our size and scale can be our friend and sometimes our worst enemy,” said Pinson, adding the chain is working in tandem with suppliers to make sure the beauty department doesn’t disappoint.

Polishing the beauty department is mission critical to Pinson who believes it is a category of utmost importance for its shoppers.

The beauty department is a treat at the typical Wal-Mart — a respite from a hectic trip perhaps with kids in tow and a long shopping list. “This is one of the most personal experiences we have in our stores for our customers,” Pinson said, offsetting buying toilet paper or laundry detergent. “She stops [in beauty] because she wants to do something for herself. She wants to purchase something that is going to make her feel good. We are a part of her life and we do want to make her feel better.”

Wal-Mart is installing upgraded fixturing, better lighting, innovative products and offering services such as Pick Up Today to bolster beauty. “We are committed to upgrading our stores and fixtures,” she said. “We have more opportunities to convert customers and we aren’t done yet,” promised Pinson in regard to the beauty business.

Over the next three years, Pinson said the chain will focus on building its credibility in beauty. “We are going to understand the brands that we want to carry and the quality that the customer is looking for — this is how we are going to continue to build credibility at Wal-Mart.”

Her strategy to expand beauty at Wal-Mart includes “getting out in front of the changing consumer.” The chain wants to win with new. “Only 28 percent of our products are over five years old in the cosmetics world. We keep turning out new things and it continues to resonate,” she said. One request she presented was to reduce shopper confusion by doing “bigger and better” launches, rather than a slew of extensions which confuse shoppers.

Pinson also sees fertile growth in the burgeoning Hispanic population, which overindexes in purchasing beauty, along with mixed families.

And, she hopes the industry will work together on sustainable raw material sourcing and incorporate sustainable packaging into their innovation cycle.

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