MIDWEST APPROACHES MARKET GENTLY
Byline: Margaret Littman
CHICAGO — While teens may be coaxed into buying a skin-care or cosmetic product as soon as they hear that it will solve an adolescent trauma — think of Biore Nose Strips or any acne-fighting concealer — the over-50 set may be more reluctant to face their beauty concerns.
“It is a delicate subject,” said Debra Gold, cosmetics buyer for the Lake Shore Drive location of Parkway Drugs, an independent chain of four Chicago-area upscale drugstores. “If they come in looking for something, which they usually do, it’s not a problem. Otherwise, I have to be careful how I bring things up.”
The “things” to which Gold refers are age spots, wrinkles and the excessively dry skin that can come with age and years of sun exposure.
One of Gold’s best-selling products is Cellex-C, a vitamin C-enriched serum that helps ward off wrinkles. The $75 serum is also sold in a $95 cream form, with tomato extract, because tomato, Gold said, is said to reduce age spots.
But despite these claims and the fact that Cellex-C is advertising in national women’s magazines, most women come in looking for it because they heard about it from a friend, not because the package touts its turn-back-the-hands-of-time properties.
As consumers like those who frequent Parkway Drugs are reluctant to acknowledge their aging beauty concerns by name, manufacturers are developing politically correct monikers for the commonplace problems.
“Increase in cell renewal” is a polite way of talking about wrinkles,” said Montean LaPorte, a skin-care divisional merchandise manager for Ulta 3, the suburban Romeoville-based discount cosmetic chain and salon with 18 stores in the Chicago area.
But despite the naming soft-shoe, manufacturers continue to be aggressive in their launch of beauty products for the mature woman. Gold sees demand for almost all the high-end vitamin-enriched products, including ResKue, a vitamin K cream said to be good for removing spider veins as an alternative or precursor to plastic and laser surgery.
Ulta 3’s LaPorte is expecting Biosome’s quick-acting vitamin C patches, and line extensions due out this fall, to sell well to the mature woman because of its ingredients.
And consumers say it’s those anti-aging properties they look for on the ingredient statement. Chicagoan Barbara Rogers shops Osco Drug for most cosmetics, opting for L’Oreal’s Feel Perfecte makeup because it is light and lasts all day, she said. But for skin care products, she usually splurges, going to department stores like Carson Pirie Scott for Elizabeth Arden’s Visible Difference. If she were to try a mass-market cream as an alternative, she said, she would demand retinol or another similar retin ingredient on the label, despite the fact she’s not entirely sure those contents make a difference.
“I think they all do the same thing,” she said. “It’s really just psychological.”
One buyer for a local drugstore chain said Rogers is fairly typical in her purchases for the Chicago woman. Products that truly have different properties, like moisturizing or a lighter feel, do skew toward specific age groups. But color purchases, particularly lipstick and nail polish, are not influenced by age, which is one of the reasons the major chains tend not to separate out sections of products, like they might do for teens.
“This is a huge untapped market,” said Julie Staggs, a cosmetics buyer with Ulta 3. Unlike skin- and hair-care products that can be specifically formulated to a woman over 50, color is a category that defies age boundaries. “Color is a difficult market to target, other than if the formulas have moisture,” she said.
Unlike the teen market, there is no mature woman section at Ulta 3 or any other area drugstore, but LaPorte explains that the planogram calls for acne products to be segregated away from lines that may appeal to the older woman.
And manufacturers are being as subtle as retailers are in how they lure the older woman. LaPorte and Richard Bos, hair-care divisional merchandise manager for Ulta 3, point to older-looking models on product packaging as evidence that the aging beauty market is increasing attractive.
“On the boxes, it is not typical to see a 20-year-old,” LaPorte said. She won’t be in her 50s, but she will be slightly older.”