Byline: Faye Brookman

HUNT VALLEY, Md. — Cover Girl is getting a bright new face.
Facing fierce competition on the merchandising peg wall from new contenders such as sister brand Oil of Olay, Neutrogena and a plethora of niche brands targeting young shoppers, Procter & Gamble wants to maintain its share of the $3 billion mass cosmetics market. To do so, it is introducing new packaging, new items and updated fixturing — complete with lighting.
Marc Pritchard, vice president of P&G cosmetics, said the efforts dovetail with his mission to build momentum for Cover Girl.
“We’ve refreshed the look and received recognition for some of our great existing products. We’ve gotten back into color with promotions such as Iced Creams and She Sells Sea Shells. We’ve also streamlined our stockkeeping units and improved in-stock conditions,” Pritchard said.
The result, he said, has been fiscal-year sales gains of 6 percent, bringing Cover Girl’s total volume to $580 million. That puts the brand in a dead heat with Revlon; each garners about a 19 percent share of sales, according to data from Information Resources Inc. for the 52 weeks ended June 28.
What’s notable about that share, retailers said, is that Cover Girl has traditionally been the leader in units, but it only just topped the list in dollars. With the new look in place, Pritchard wants to see sales gains expand into the double digits — a move that will push Cover Girl well beyond $600 million.
Pritchard outlined some specific categories in color cosmetics where he feels Cover Girl has a stranglehold on the market.
“We are clearly the undisputed winner in face, with 41 percent dollar share,” he said. “One out of three women buying liquid makeup in mass buy Cover Girl — one out of two buy a Cover Girl powder.”
Despite the headway Pritchard has made in his three years at P&G’s beauty care division, he thinks further growth will come from making the shopping experience easier.
“Cover Girl is a great brand. But women told us, ‘bring us fun, make it easy for us to find shades,”‘ said Pritchard. “We’re good listeners so we’re going to give it to them.”
The foundation of “The New Face of Cover Girl” is the organization of its many shades. “We didn’t have the same exact shades and shade names across the board,” said Anne Martin, manager of global cosmetics marketing for P&G cosmetics. “There’s not consistency in the market, and shoppers get frustrated.”
As part of P&G’s new look, a new 15-shade universal palette will be introduced in all foundations. Company testing found the shades satisfy the needs of more than 95 percent of women.
To help shoppers select nail color, the new schematic also uses what Martin called “spectruming” — merchandising by grouping similar colors. The fixture also “frames” out Cover Girl’s assortment with face products on one end, eye merchandise on the other and color statements in the center.
Cover Girl edited out duplicate products. For example, Replenishing and MoistureWear are being discontinued and phased into CG Smoothers. The result is 60 fewer stockkeeping units, which helps clear the way for the recently launched CG Smoothers.
P&G said it would expand CG Smoothers with a Lip Liner and Concealer and additional shades of CG Smoothers Hydrating Lip Color. The new items will ship in early 2000. And in March, Cover Girl will add Fresh Look in liquid and powder — a facial product that self-adjusts to skin needs.
To make room, Fresh Complexion, Clarifying Make-up and Balanced Complexion are being discontinued. Shoppers will be educated about what to use instead by signs on the shelves, as well as information on Cover Girl’s web site.
The entire line is getting bright new packaging that uses the trademark Cover Girl blue. Several retailers who had seen the new packaging said it should especially appeal to a young audience.
P&G will start promotions, including coupons, to help retailers sell through existing inventories to ready shelves for the new merchandise by the beginning of the year. The new fixture is expected to be installed during reconfigurations early next year. Pritchard expects the full program will be implemented by at least 25,000 stores.
The new shelves have product information panels — signs that help explain product features to shoppers. Martin said shoppers have asked for more information to be available at the point of sale.
Some retailers will install a new display within the shelving unit that Cover Girl is calling Shade Central. Situated in the center of the fixture, the area — complete with lights much like Oil of Olay’s — features wheels that help women select colors.
There is even a chart using nail color chips to help women team up other makeup products with desired nail colors. Shade Central features an area called Tiny Trys with average retail prices of $1 to $2 for small compact samples or mini lipsticks.
Shade Central is available in 2-foot, 3-foot and 4-foot sections, but the Tiny Trials will also be available in displays that can be merchandised in locations other than the wall, said Pritchard.
Buyers familiar with Shade Central expressed concern that the return on the footage invested would not be as high as on the rest of the wall.
“We don’t sell merchandise where the wheels are and we’ve found people aren’t using them for Oil of Olay,” said one source. Another discount retailer said the trial sizes would bring down the average sales ring and deter shoppers from buying from the rest of the wall.
Pritchard is out to quiet those fears.
“The trial-size area is a profit center in its own right and will turn fast and will actually build sales on the wall,” he said. “It is like a beacon drawing them to the wall.”
Pritchard emphasized that the most important component of the program was to get the right product selection in place. To do so, he said, some chains would have to give more space to P&G. Pritchard added that not all doors would have the space for Shade Central.
Buyers lamented that they just ripped up planograms earlier this year for Oil of Olay and Neutrogena — and will now have to do it again for Cover Girl and the additional space P&G has in mind for new sku’s for Oil of Olay.
“The new fixturing is setting us back years,” said Karen Durham, divisional merchandise manager for Duane Reade.
To introduce Cover Girl’s new look to consumers, the company will use a direct-to-consumer catalog. The 24-page catalog gives information about the entire Cover Girl line, as well as samples. According to Martin, it will be distributed via mailers, the web site and by other means.
Direct-to-consumer vehicles are being used to promote CG Smoothers — one for moms and one for teens. Pritchard said Cover Girl is maintaining historic spending levels, but shifting more of the budget into in-store activities and direct-to-consumer vehicles. “We’ve found that sampling really works — especially on items like Continuous Wear.”