EPPS: A SHOWCASE FOR MASS CREATIVITY

Byline: Faye Brookman

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — With the advent of new cosmetics entries from Procter & Gamble and Neutrogena this year, the fight for space in the mass market has been more intense than ever. And survival has become a matter of create or die.
That was obvious from the assortment of new product ideas presented by more than 60 beauty companies attending this week’s Cosmetics Efficient Product Planning Session (EPPS), which ran from Tuesday through Thursday.
Buyers from more than 50 retail firms huddled with manufacturers at the PGA Spa and Resort here. Hosted by Efficient Consumer Response Management, a company based in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, that produces industry meetings, EPPS continues to evolve into a major meeting. For the first time, it attracted both Revlon and Walgreen.
During the sessions, manufacturers made their bid to wrest more display space — or at least maintain the real estate they already occupy — in mass stores. Making that even more challenging is the fact that retailers have been asked by Procter and Gamble and Neutrogena to clear more space for their new color cosmetics lines.
P&G is requesting retailers yield at least two more feet to expand the new Oil of Olay makeup collection, the entry that has already amassed sales of $100 million in its first four months. But P&G also wants more space for its Cover Girl brand as it rolls out a new fixture that holds more than 200 fewer stockkeeping units.
And Neutrogena is also eyeing more footage to expand some of the products in its new color line. Based on the performance of both new brands, retailers said they’d be trying to enlarge the footage.
“Both brands are hitting the mark, but not exceeding expectations,” said a buyer for a major drugstore chain. “Still, we’ll probably give them the space.”
However, both retailers and manufacturers agreed that much of the sales of Oil of Olay and Neutrogena have come at the expense of existing brands rather than by expanding overall sales of the category.
Particularly hard hit, said buyers, were Almay and Max Factor. Maybelline continues to flourish despite the growing competition. According to the most recent ACNielsen numbers, Maybelline has surpassed Cover Girl as the highest volume color brand by units sales.
For the year-to-date period ended Aug. 7, ACNielsen showed Maybelline at 19 percent versus Cover Girl’s 18.6 percent.
To keep the momentum going, Maybelline showed new packaging for its former Salon Finish nail color. The name of the product too will be changed to Ultimate Wear to call attention to its long-wearing formula. Company executives also said the appearance of Sarah Michelle Gellar as Maybelline’s new spokesmodel this year has ignited sales of Express 3 in 1 stick.
The success of the new major brands, as well as growth from Maybelline, has put added pressure on niche brands. “Retailers want to see you are putting dollars into items. The nonsupportive brands are under scrutiny,” said a source for a larger manufacturer.
With that as a backdrop, niche players unveiled items they hope are so unusual that retailers won’t be able to pass them up. Retailers, however, said that is a challenge, since the pace of innovative items has been so brisk that unfortunately much of what they see is similar from supplier to supplier.
“After awhile,” admitted Bob Berman, vice president of buying and merchandising for May’s Drug Stores of Tulsa, Okla., “all of the merchandise starts looking alike. You have to find the companies with something a bit different.”
With drug, discount and food stores all chasing young customers, it was not surprising to see more items targeted at fashion savvy shoppers. With so many companies having similar products, the goal at EPPS was to show unique packaging that convinced retailers to go with one brand over another. A few examples included:
Packages in CD cases: Linking music with beauty, Onyx, Loud Music from Sel-Leb and Caboodles showed innovative ways to package cosmetics into plastic jewel cases that typically hold compact discs.
Valentine’s Day Specials: Several suppliers, looking to provide a sales blip in February, touted special ideas for Valentine’s Day. Retailers have turned Halloween into the second-largest holiday behind Christmas, and it appears there’s an effort to do the same for Valentine’s Day.
Milani offered special Valentine’s Day collections of colors. Townley has a special Hello Kitty endcap for Valentine’s Day, and CCA showed stuffed animals hugging fragrance bottles.
New profit opportunities: Retailers were eyeing product categories to expand, such as makeup carry cases from Living Things and home makeup storage trays from A.J. Siris. l Clever bottles: With most products being somewhat similar, vendors eyed ways to make theirs stand out on the shelf. Townley Inc. showed its Funky Friends, characters that are glued to the top of its items. X-Tatic had a lipstick with a snow globe top, while Sel-Leb showed lip gloss packaged to look like sand art. Markwins showed a follow-up to its successful Nail Pop — a nail polish bottle packaged to look like a lollipop — with a flower-shaped bottle called Petal Power.
Caboodles unveiled a new package for its fragrances that looks like a flask, but also has a wand inside to use to blow bubbles with the fragrance. Beautycology extended its popular nail gloss with its first lip color entry — a tin with two flavored shades and a clear gloss that will bow next May.
In addition to creative packaging such as Chinese food cartons, Kristin Penta, creator of Fun Cosmetics Inc., is carving out a niche in the business by using her image on packaging. Penta said she is being asked by teen magazines to contribute ideas and she’s hoping to establish herself as a mass-market version of Dineh Mohajer, the creator of Hard Candy. “People are giving us the recognition because of that,” said Penta.
A company gaining attention from a number of retailers for its fresh ideas is Onyx Laboratories Ltd., with entries such as its Salon Party Pail, which features products for friends to get together for manicures and pedicures. A Sweetheart Party Pail will be added for Valentine’s Day, according to Marsha Martin, company president. To help consumers understand how to accomplish nail looks, Mason has created a booklet that is affixed to a kit with nail items called Glamour Nails.
Blue Cross Beauty Products, looking to take its assortment of glitter products to a new level, introduced combination body gels containing floating shapes, such as stars or dolphins, linked with matching nail polish. The company, which remains a leader in the glitter business, also showed a soy-based nail polish remover and a unique massage bar that when rubbed together in the hands can be used to give massages. As an added kick, the product is edible — hence the name Edible Bites.
Creating a stir with retailers was Fifth Avenue Channel with a ring that has a compartment filled with glitter lip balm. Similar items have been extremely successful in chains such as Limited Too. According to Fifth Avenue Channel Retail president Michael Tedesco, his firm has patented rights to the mold for the ring, which he said will sell for about $4 apiece.
Retailers also applauded the ethnic line from Milani, which is currently being set up in Drug Emporium. Looking for ways to further serve a diverse shopper base, a few chains also singled out beauty cosmetics kits for women of color from Michael Giordano International. Executives for Fred Meyer said they would consider selling the kits in select stores to fill a void for ethnic products.
Sensing an opportunity in the budget portion of the business, Nicka K touted its line of $1.29 items in packages inspired by department store brands such as Clinique and MAC. “We’re trying to do something different. We think our products appeal to a wide range of ages and ethnic groups,” said marketing director Joseph Dokko. “We think it allows retailers to reach customers, especially younger ones, without talking down to them.”
Nicka K and Prestige both showed their answers to the success of liquid lip formulations. Prestige has a product similar to Dior’s Plastic Shine, while Nicka K’s is positioned to compete against Revlon’s Liquid Lip. It will retail for $1.99.
Beauty 21 showed its jumbo pencil three-in-one product for lips, cheeks and eyes that competes against prestige items but carries a suggested retail between $3.49 and $3.99.
With retailers complaining that the nail color business is saturated with too many suppliers, according to buyers, there is interest in fortifying the nail treatment sector of nail care sales. According to Rick Fisher, executive vice president of Diamond Cosmetics Inc., the bankruptcy of Renaissance Cosmetics — which included the Cosmar nail care collection — has opened up peg wall space for other treatment companies.
Diamond is getting attention from retailers because of its new nail treatment item, called LavendeRx, that is designed to help strengthen nails after women remove artificial tips. Another new treatment making its debut was Miracle Nail Patch, a transdermal patch that builds nail strength. It joins other nail treatment items such as Fluorx from Andrea, a division of American International Industries.
Hoping to inject some life into the fragrance business, several suppliers discussed Christmas opportunities. A new fragrance,Van Gogh, currently sold in Europe, will be available for the first time ever this year. Available in a men’s and women’s scent, Van Gogh will sell for about $10.
“This is not a knockoff; we’re trying to build fragrance the way the industry used to and get sales back going at mass,” said Herb Carroll, managing director of sales for USA for Paris Designs Inc.
CCA Industries is also continuing to support its fragrances for this Christmas, Cherry Vanilla and Cloud Dance, in hopes of helping retailers reverse the downslide of the mass fragrance business over the past three years.
At Fragrance Impressions, Ltd. Rob Luby, vice president, said there are signs that the alternative designer fragrance business has a new life. Aiding the business has been the success of a version of Tommy by Tommy Hilfiger.
Fragrance Impressions is already planning a follow-up with versions of Hilfiger’s Freedom for men and women.

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