WEST COAST SHELVES ARE WELL STOCKED
Byline: Jean Penn
LOS ANGELES – Vitamin C patches, alpha-hydroxy acids, foundations with sunblock, lip pencils to prevent feathering, color correctors to cover age spots — all the age-defying products a 50-plus customer might fancy — are at her local drug, discount and even grocery store. Sometimes, she just has to be motivated to find it.
Nearly every mass market company, from Oil of Olay to Revlon to L’Oreal, has introduced some type of anti-aging treatment products. Visits to mass market stores throughout the Los Angeles area including Target, Rite Aid and Kmart uncovered a variety of skin care and cosmetics products for older women.
Some of those found on area shelves were:
The University Medical Face Lift line which includes a youth serum with vitamin C and alpha-hydroxy acid, a cell regeneration cream and a vitamin C anti-wrinkle patch.
St. Ives’s alpha-hydroxy facial renewal system, which includes a collagen elastin moisturizer and alpha-hydroxy facial renewal cleanser.
Oil of Olay’s Age-Defying line featuring an eye gel and daily renewal lotion with beta-hydroxy complex.
L’Oreal’s Plenitude Treatment line offering Revitalift eye defense cream face and neck cream, night anti-wrinkle cream and the Excell A alpha-hydroxy moisturizer.
Freeman Cosmetics’ new line of six vitamin C-enriched products, which includes a night repair, eye cream, self-tanner, cleanser/toner and moisturizer with SPF 15.
At Kmart, many of these skin treatment products were found on the same long, eye-level shelf in the beauty section. The cosmetics are located at the opposite side of the Kmart store.
Esther Casiano, the store’s jewelry manager who also oversees the cosmetics department, believes that the beauty section attracts more mature customers than the cosmetics area. But not because older women don’t wear makeup.
“Lots of elderly women ask for fake eyelashes, and we’re going to have a fake eyelash section soon,” Casiano said. Popular products with the mature market, according to her observations, were Almay’s Time-off age smoothing cleansing lotion and eye cream, and Vanderbilt fragrance.
The Target store in Culver City, was equally well stocked in the beauty section with the skin-treatments and cleansers.
Annette Roland, a cosmetics department manager at Target, said that Almay eyeliner in taupe and Revlon Honey Bee Pink lipstick were particularly popular items for 50-plus customers. On the other hand, she said, despite its positioning, Revlon’s Age-Defying cosmetics line was not attracting 50-plus customers. “It’s more 25-to-40-year-olds who shop it.”
Sav-On in Venice offered everything from Revlon’s antioxidant skin repair products to St. Ives alpha-hydroxy facial renewal lotion to Nature’s Family vitamin E gel.
Bertha Ornelas, a clerk at Sav-On, said she has seen an increase in the number of products for older customers. Some of the most popular items, she said, have been L’Oreal’s wrinkle defense lotion and Neutrogena’s moisturizer with sunblock. “Many women come in and ask for it, because their dermatologist recommended it,” said Ornelas, referring to the Neutrogena item.
She also pointed to the alpha-hydroxy skin care brand as being popular among older women. “This is very popular with over-50 women because of the alpha-hydroxy ingredient.” But, she added, many customers are leery of the fruit acids and prefer to stay with familiar products.
Rite Aid in Venice also carried a full range of products geared to mature customers, and all were fairly easily located.
Loyalty is something that Super Drugs in Westwood has earned from its customers in the past 55 years. A majority of their customers are over 50. Many are senior citizens. Super Drugs not only offers a 10 percent discount to seniors, but also delivers — free of charge.
“When Elizabeth Arden was going out of the drugstores, we wrote many letters pleading with them not to leave us. So many of our shut-ins use Elizabeth Arden, and the department stores don’t deliver,” said Leone Hamer, who does the cosmetics buying and has been working for Super Drugs for 22 years.
She believes with older customers, loyalty and familiarity are important motivators in cosmetics sales. So is a bargain.
“Familiarity is what makes Revlon’s Moon Drops cleaning lotion, toner and moisturizer appealing. Revlon discontinued most of the Moon Drops line, but they kept these few items in because they are so popular with older customers,” said Hamer.
“The New Complexion line’s pancake foundation is popular. Revlon is our number one seller, followed by Arden. Revlon’s Eterna 22 cream is one of our most popular items. It’s $13.75 for the two-ounce all-day moisture cream or night cream. But in November or January, they come out with specials on larger 4- and 6-oz. jars, and we order about 200.”
Additionally, Revlon’s Age Defying cosmetics line is very successful because of the Melanie Griffith ads, according to Super Drugs staffer Simone Sachar.
In the treatment arena, “L’Oreal’s Plenitude is popular with all customers. However women over 50 particularly like the eye, neck and face creams. And we can’t keep their Excell A lotion in stock. We’re out of it now,” added Hamer.
Neutrogena is also an important line for Super Drug, and its sunblock moisturizers are among the hottest sellers, said Kandis Kueber, who buys the line for the store. “Its retail price is very good, and it does well across the board. The Physicians Formula cleansers, creams, toners, eye makeup remover and cosmetics are also popular with 55-plus customers, outselling Almay,” said Kueber.
“Almay’s Time-off Revitalizer hasn’t seen that much action. The basic items, like mascara and moisturizers, sell. But more dermatologists seem to recommend Neutrogena and Physicians Formula than Almay. Doctor’s recommendations are more important to older customers,” noted Kueber.
While many retailers carried similar items, the level of salesperson knowledge seemed to vary from store to store. At the Target and Kmart, sales clerks were able to say where certain products should be, if they were carried by the store. The sales personnel at Sav-On and Rite Aid drugstores visited actually knew exactly where specific products were located.
Last February, Freeman Cosmetics, a 23-year-old L.A.-based company, introduced a vitamin C enriched line of six products targeted at women over 35. Co-op ads pitching the product, priced from $5.95 to $9.90, will begin in June and July with CVS stores.
“Vitamin C is allowing us to reach a whole new customer that the mass market retailer is also reaching out to,” said Larry Freeman, chief executive officer of Freeman Cosmetics, which sells its products in drugstores, discount stores and supermarkets.
Freeman admits, “when we talk about the mature customer, we mean 30 to 54.” Most of our skin treatments start at 13. The theory in the beauty business is, if you get a young girl as a regular user, she will probably stay with you for a long time.”
According to Freeman’s focus group studies, only a small percentage of its customers, he said, are over 50, although demographics are higher on the new vitamin C line.
“Drugstores primarily and mass marketers secondarily are very anxious to attract department store customers in general via niche beauty products,” said Freeman. Retailers and manufactures, he continued, “are not necessarily targeting the 50-plus customer, but she is part of that department store category that has more disposable income to bring into the store.”
Furthermore, said Freeman, “retailers can attract the more mature customer by making their stores more user-friendly, easier to get in and out of, and by making sure it’s well lighted so there are no visual problems.”
Meanwhile, the budget-conscious older woman doesn’t always appreciate too much service. “When you go to the beauty counter in a department store, you get those women who are experts and want to smear things on you. I’d rather go into a drugstore, and just get what I came in for,” said one 70-plus Sav-On shopper, Esther Watson. Watson, a retired teacher, said she doesn’t go to discounters because she thinks parking lots are too crowded and the checkout lines too long.
“You always get more than you need, because it takes so long to stand in line and there are so many other things you get,” said Watson.
She was in Sav-On for one item only: Neutrogena moisturizer with SPF15. “My doctor recommended it,” she said. She shops the department store for Clinique. “Everything else, I get at the drugstore or my neighborhood beauty supply.”